division and reignition
New Year's Eve, 2019.
Do you remember it well? Because I do. Our final hurrah before we even knew what was about to change–and fast. I had a fun time that night, filled with tons of friends in a cramped room, fireworks, and an all-nighter with the person I loved.
All of this would be taken away.
For me, 2020 started tasting sour in January, with an emergency appendix removal surgery during a cold snap. This was followed by a hard breakup in February (amidst waiting to hear from a Master's programme I had applied to)... and by March, the C-word began making its rounds. I can vividly remember the first time I switched on the news and saw the toilet-paper-hoarders. Interestingly, they seem tame now. I still don't really understand why people needed toilet paper so badly - and I have yet to find someone who can sufficiently describe it to me. But apparently, a lot of people had the same idea.
For the duration of this entire pandemic, I only got sick twice, and the first time was when things were at an all-time high. Early on. Without any knowledge, I remember wondering if I was going to die if I caught it (since I had asthma as a child and didn't know much at all about what was happening). Before I got sick, I remember thinking, "What are the odds that I catch this? I hope it leaves soon and I can move on unscathed." I remember also thinking, "Why is this different than H1N1? I'm sure I'll be fine."
Both times I only had a minor cold. And now, I'm vaccinated and have not been sick since. It still amazes me that my family and I have been safe, if I'm honest, and I feel incredibly lucky. I could go on about my thoughts and feelings here - but - no one wants to read that. And I've never spoken about it on any platform before now, for a reason.
In all, it is fascinating to me that we are experiencing global shared energy towards this thing. What I wrote above are only two of the many, many thoughts that ran through my mind as the whole scene unfolded. I wish I could see the thoughts of everyone else. I also remember being so excited when we first heard a vaccine was coming, after initial talks of it taking much longer. I wonder if those against the vaccine would have gotten it if it did take longer?
I know this whole thing has been divisive, and still is. I'm just sharing my honest thoughts. I wanted to get back to life, especially with how 2020 had played out already. I had passionate loved ones on both sides present me their pro or anti-vax rationales, but I had to make a decision for myself. I have empathy for those who cannot and choose not to get it (for whatever reason). It's their decision to make as well. I know not everyone feels that way, but I've chosen to.
Over the years, I've had many people tell me adamantly, "If they don't serve you, cut them out." But why would anyone want to live that way? It's almost as head-scratching as the toilet-paper-hoarders. What happens when we just let people speak? I think over time, they allow us to speak, too. And this is where change occurs. Removing relationships makes things worse. Everyone thinks the way they do for a reason. They are still people. Sometimes an argument is worth it. All I know is that I'm against giving up on people.
Back to the story now...
My life seemed out of control by the Spring, if I'm honest. I was surrounded by unknowns, I had nothing to look forward to, and I felt alone. I found out I didn't get into the Master's programme, which confused me even more.
But, something you should note about me is that I am a violent optimist, whether I like it or not. I always lean towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and though this demeanour was challenged during this time, there was sunshine. At work, although we were stuck at home, we got an amazing opportunity to work with John Krasinski on Some Good News. Wow, was that exciting. "Oh, this is why I didn't get accepted to that Master's program!" I thought. And work became my refuge. I loved my job. I felt good at it. I loved the people around me and the exciting new opportunity. It was a golden beacon in a raging storm. It was how I survived after rejection, loss, loneliness and a sick world. I am so grateful for that season.
Around this time, I also decided to move in with a roommate, which I had never done before. This move was a much-needed element in my life for the time I had it. But it soon became like everything else: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Sure, I was happier then... but I quickly became bored. Restless. Lost. I knew there had to be more to my story. Since 2014, I feel like every year of my life has had something. In 2020, I didn't see that purpose. For the first time in a long time, I couldn't see what was next. I didn't have a chapter I was looking forward to, because nothing seemed to be moving. "At least everyone is feeling this way, too," I told myself. "At least I'm not alone in this. Maybe it's a good break."
At times, I was almost tempted to opt for a "regular" life - a mindset switch to become compliant and happy with the routines of life. Maybe I was meant to settle down. Find love again. Work my way up in my job, keep my friends close, relax. This is something I've always dreaded. And sure enough, I couldn't do it. I had to find my grit again.
New Year's Eve, 2020.
Do you remember it well? Because I do. This time, I was completely alone. Cooped up in my apartment, I was looking forward to the time to myself. I am a sucker for traditions and I wanted to have a glass of champagne and watch the ball drop with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (two of my role models in the biz). Usually, none of my friends want to do this or we miss the moment completely. So, I got cozy, ordered Chinese and, just as Mariah was having audio troubles, I felt a tug at my heart. "Let's make 2021 something fruitful," I heard God whisper. This caught my attention. "Really? We tried that last year and everything was awful." "Really. Listen to me this time, get quiet. Let's dream. There doesn't have to be a limitation." I've always trusted the voice of God. But I lost a lot of hope in 2020, and I winced at the prospect of hearing him again after compromising a lot of my childlike faith over the year of uncertainty.
I played along. Pulled out my journal. Breathed. Said a quick prayer. I then realized I was frustrated.
Frustrated that my life path had not taken the step I wanted it to. Frustrated that I was alone. Frustrated that after another year of investing in my podcast, another year of work, another year of doing the same thing over and over again, nothing had changed. My bank account was the same. My relationships were the same. My bad habits had not shifted. I felt alone. I felt unmotivated. All anyone was talking about was the C-word and how it changed their life. No one wanted to look outside of that and pay attention to other conversations. Our media appetite had completely shifted. Literally - what did we even talk about before Tr*mp and C*VID? I couldn't shake that no one cared about my show or anything else for that matter.
To be frank, my podcast did garner a lot of new and loyal listeners between 2019-2020, but the illusion that no one cared was drawn in bold, largely because some of my closest friends didn't even listen regularly (this made me bitter at times). I have now learned it doesn't make sense to expect this, and it bothers me less, but I remember that being a particular fixation I settled on for a while.
So, I decided to be honest in my time with God, since I believed he brought me to that space. I angrily wrote down, "God, this year has to be different. I don't know why you haven't been showing up for me, but I'm ready now. Don't you see that? I love you, I'm a good person, I've worked so hard on my show and my reputation and I want to do what I've wanted to do since I was 6 or 7 years old. How much longer do I have to wait? I have been obedient to our plans. Open the doors now and I'll show you I'm ready. Otherwise, I'm moving on. I need to."
I think deep down, I knew God had something up his sleeve at this moment. As I wrote, I could almost sense him saying, "It's coming," but I needed to air the emotion I felt stuck in. And I think that was the healthiest way to do it.
I also realized I desired a few other elements - dreams (that's a story for a different time, but I do mean the ones that happen when you're sleeping), motivation, and new friendships. I closed my journal. Watched the ball drop. And sang out "Happy New Year!" from my 13th-floor balcony to all of my neighbours. I caught the reflection of the fireworks behind me (though my building faced the wrong direction for a proper view). I took an Instagram Story, tried to focus on the positive moments of the lonely evening, and went to sleep.
I had an incredible dream that night.
The dream got me hopeful. I thought, "Wow, God heard me and he showed me he heard me." I didn't hold on to hope for the frustration-lined requests I also made, but I considered the dream cool enough. I would take it, willing my soul to be okay with just having one thing happen in my conversation with God. I mean... it was pretty cool.
I think God winks at us when we ask him, "Where are you!?" because he is always there, and just about to take action. There is a lesson there in my relationship with God.
3 days later, on January 4th, I was in shock. I had gotten a DM from a CBC Producer asking me if I would consider being a panellist on a new national network show. I looked at the message over and over again, stunned this was even possible, with a million questions in my mind. "How did they find me?" "Why me?" "Is this legit?"
Apparently, someone on their team in Toronto had heard my show and thought I would be a good fit. I was in shock. Maybe my friends weren't listening to my show, but a CBC Producer in Toronto was? How could I not correlate this to my time with God a few nights before? This was him saying, "You said you were ready - and I trust you - so here you go. Here's the rest of what we talked about."
On February 3rd, 2021, I was on national television for the first time - something I had envisioned happening maybe when I was 30. And, it happened 5 more times after that.
People liked me! My podcast got the most downloads it had ever had in one week. I didn't even know what to do, but it felt normal. It felt right. I felt like God was saying "Yes, you were ready. And it's not as big of a deal as you once thought it was. You can do more than this, too."
Every time I would go on air, I took the role extremely seriously. It's usually a 10-minute time period, where my adrenaline is spiked and I am almost on auto-pilot. I loved this rush. I wanted to be the best. I doubt any of the other panellists were ever thinking this way if I'm honestly interpreting it in hindsight, but this mattered so much to me. I knew I wanted to steward the opportunity, to prove to nobody but God and myself, that I was ready for this.
However, even being on national television did not improve my relationships or general life back in the real world (contrary to the way we often fantasize that accomplishing our dreams will). And honestly, some of my friends still didn't watch me once. But this is where I shifted my thinking about that conundrum. It didn't matter. The right people were seeing me at the right time - and I knew God was up to something. 2021 became a year of the grind. Living out God's fulfilled promises catapulted my thinking to a new level. One where I believed in myself and I was closer than ever to achieving my goals. This was only the training.
I'll admit in this period, I felt alone. Most people didn't want to talk to me about it at family dinners or out for a walk. Someone would comment a supportive line on social media, but rarely bring it up in person. I don't know what I was expecting, but I truly think my issue with those things was less about pleasing the people around me, and it was more about searching for a team to come around me and affirm that I was doing the right thing. That someone would say they saw what God was doing and it inspired them. I realize now these types of friends are limited. They are the ones that truly love you and walk with you in success. And I do have them, but I didn't know who they were until this period.
In August 2021, I travelled to Toronto for some vacation time and on my first day there, these conflicting emotions came to a head. I called one of my friends who I did feel like was on the team with me, and immediately burst into tears. "I don't know why I went on this trip," I sniffled, "I don't know anyone here and I'm sad. No one cares about what's happening with me. The show opportunity is going nowhere."
At this point, I had applied to some roles at CBC and tried to network further with those who helped get me on the show, but I was feeling closed in by dead-ends. I didn't know what was next for me and it was almost my 27th birthday. Birthdays are important to me. It was also a very hot day and I had a stressful time getting to Toronto, so I think I was feeling overwhelmed and feeling emotionally empty. It was a moment of weakness I hadn't allowed myself since that New Year's Eve. It was honest. And I think I needed to go away to access that pain.
I don't know if you've been in a similar situation before, but sometimes, even when we get what we think we want, we anticipate the fruit of that achievement and feel like the initial acquisition of those goals was pointless when we can't see the next step. Yes, I got my prayers answered in January, but it seemed they served no purpose except to show me God listens. Big woop. I already knew that...
I hung up the phone, defeated but encouraged by my friend, and grateful I had him. As I continued to calm down, I saw an email in my inbox from someone at CBC asking me to guest host a radio show...I kid you not, it was seconds after my breakdown.
OK, God, I get it. I just need to be patient. I am seen. Ha! You can imagine how silly I felt telling my friend what had just happened. My mood completely changed as I realized my moment of self-pity was completely a fallacy. This maybe sounds like I'm spoiled, but I'm just telling you what happened. As I was finishing the subsequent phone call about this new radio opportunity, I realized I missed another call from the Northwest Territories. It was yet another CBC employee in my network, who went on to tell me that one of the broadcast managers is very impressed with me and that there is a lot of CBC staff that want to work with me. I sat down on a park bench, an incredulous stare on my tear-stained face.
I called my parents, started planning the radio show, and enjoyed my time in Toronto with fresh eyes. I even got to meet the producer that found me for Canada Tonight. I left the city after a beautiful trip feeling excited, happy about a new project, and riding high on the encouraging words of the people around me that week. And it didn't end there. The very day I came back to Calgary, I watched live as it was announced I won "Outstanding Society and Culture" in the Canadian Podcast Awards for 2021. Queue the waterworks. Yes, Canada was listening even when friends and family weren't. Yes, God had plans up his sleeve the moment I started doubting him. I imagine he was laughing at me, and now I laugh with him.
Later that week, after hosting the radio show and celebrating my birthday, I get a Twitter message from one of the higher-ups at CBC Ontario. They congratulated me on the award and acknowledged that they knew I was getting work with CBC Calgary, but encouraged me to reach out at any time should that opportunity not pan out. At this point, I felt like the floodgates had opened and I couldn't even fathom that I was crying a week before about feeling unseen. Truthfully, however, I was worried at being pigeonholed into radio and only talking about music (which was the show in Calgary), and I was stressed about what path made more sense. Regardless, I decided to follow the lead available to me to at least get my foot in the door, and applied to host the show in Calgary.
But God doesn't settle for what's available.
I found out in October that I would not be permanently hosting the show in Calgary. One year ago, this is where I may have given up and given into my self-doubt. But, I reached out to my new Twitter contact and decided I wasn't going to let this end here. I believed God had something more for me, scratching at the surface, just like he did when I was doubtful in Toronto.
She got back to me quickly - there was a position in Windsor for a reporter role that would really cut my teeth in the industry. She explained that Windsor is a great market for those looking to eventually host. Almost all of the current National Network hosts have gone through that location. They wanted to have me!
A remark that stuck with me while discussing the role with her was, "This show would be like your podcast in a lot of ways - but you'd get to do it every day." I still smile when I think of that.
I applied as soon as possible, and around 3 weeks later, I underwent my third CBC interview of 2021. For this one, I had to prepare two story pitches for the show and provide a critique on one of the episodes they sent me. I buckled up my research boots and got to work. I was proud of the result, and when the interview rolled around, I felt excited to share with the panel. I had a three-hour sleep the night before, but I have never felt more prepared. The next day, I found out I got it. I got it! The role that sets me up for the highest likelihood of me getting to exactly where I want to be. And the most beautiful part is that even if I didn't get it, I knew I would have kept fighting regardless - because this time, I knew without a doubt that God is faithful.
This experience showed me I had grown immensely since NYE 2020. Now, I truly believe this opportunity is where I was meant to be, and looking back, absolutely everything happened the way it should have. This is the fingerprint of our Creator.
New Year's Eve, 2021.
Will you remember it well? Because I will. The year I grew confident in the importance of my dreams and the surety I have developed in trusting God with them all. He knows the perfect timing. He knows the lessons we have to fulfill before we're ready. He is there when we come to him. What I will anticipate for 2022 is an unknown...but I know I will have my quiet time with the Lord again and we'll fill in some blanks together. Even if I have to wait on him, I'm happy to.
I feel a sense of relief that I spun gold with God and now everything is in place. In less than a year, I took a DM and I made it a permanent career... the first step to my ultimate dreams. I am so excited, but I am also surprisingly not overwhelmed or shocked. It just feels like I'm on the right ride at the right time and there's nothing else that would make sense for me at this moment.
I think if you told me 3 years ago I'd be here today, that would be a different story. But we are always being prepared for the right time. And with God, he always knows what he is doing with us.
I hope this inspires and encourages you. You are worthy of your dreams. You are worthy of relationship. And even in a global pandemic, God will make a way if you let him.
I'll see you in Windsor next month. To another chapter...and the stresses of moving across the country...
Happy New Year!
- j o s i a h