For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Being raised on a farm. If you had've asked me the same question about 15 years ago, my answer would have been a very different one. Back then, as a teenager who cared only about hanging out with friends and hating the fact that I didn’t live in town, I certainly did not appreciate my upbringing. Growing up in the country on a dairy farm taught me so many valuable life lessons that as an adult I’m so grateful for. I have a strong work ethic, connection to community, appreciation for hard work and adapting to ever changing conditions that life throws at us. But most importantly, I am so grateful for the resilience that farm life teaches you.
Why are you, you?
I am me because of a whole bunch of different reasons. Family. Friends. Love. Food. Cooking. Books. Beach. Farm. Education. Experience. Travel. Broken Heart. Loss. Death. I am also a nurturer by nature (wrap your head around that one for all those nature vs nurture enthusiasts), I have a sense in me to care for all that I come across, including people, places and our furry friends. This has lead me to very valuable friendships and experiences, a passion for my career and continuous learning and how I go about my daily life. I am curious and always wanting to know more about what makes people tick; how each individual has a story that has lead them to become the person they are today. But it has not always been a rosy path, as being this way can open you to a world of vulnerability and hurt but these times have also shaped the person I am today. I live by the cliched motto of ‘no regrets’ and learn from each and every experience I have, whether it is a positive or negative one. I’m sure I will have many more of these experiences in my lifetime that will develop and shape who I am, we are ever changing who we are and becoming a unique ’you’ with every experience we have.
At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
I will definitely put my hand up and say that I fall into the trap of the daily grind of life and let the little things get to me sometimes (a big thanks to my friends and family who patiently listen to me whinge about this). Mostly, this falls around my work life and feeling like I’m not doing the best I could be or losing some of my passion that lead me to do what I do. Then I attended a public talk hosted by Hugh from The Resilience Project and this completely opened my eyes up to the world of GEM: gratitude, empathy and mindfulness. Hugh’s simple but powerful message during his talk was inspiring to me, not only professionally but personally as well. I felt like this underlying information was always within me but I didn’t have the means to transfer this message into my daily life. Gratitude and being grateful for what we have in this modern world is sometimes lost on the materialistic values that society places on our lives. Since listening to Hugh talk, I remind myself often of the wonderful life I do have, appreciating the simpler things and most importantly trying to dial down my addiction to social media and be present in the moment (something I’m still very much working on). This talk also reignited my curiosity, empathy and passion for life and finding the ability to see understanding where I was seeing frustration and listening to the needs of others instead of assuming I knew best. When I feel like I’m achieving these things, I feel most alive.
When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
Right now. I’m a big believer in doing what you know is right always. If you’re doing things for a payoff or not doing them as you’ve calculated a risk too high, whether it be professionally or personally, you will eventually burn out from all the overthinking. Doing what you know is right may not always come with an obvious reward but the fact that you did the right thing should be reward enough.
If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
This may sound a bit strange but I’d like to teach to people to care less. I don’t mean caring less about family, friends, work, ourselves. I mean caring less about what those who don’t know us think of us or what we don’t have in comparison to others. I see this across all areas of my life and I believe the biggest influencing factor to this issue is social media. I have people very close to me who value themselves on how many ‘likes’ they get on Instagram and Facebook, I have others who view the profiles of people who seemingly have their s**t together and get seriously down about their own lives, truly believing they are failing at life because they don’t have what others do. Comparing ourselves to the supposedly glamourous lives we see on social media is a very dangerous pastime. This circles back to gratitude and gratefulness, maybe that’s what I’d like to teach. Bringing it all back to basics, the things in life that make us happy on a fundamental level and appreciating what we do have and not focusing on what we don’t.
Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you’re doing?
From a very young age I knew working with people in some kind of caring or supporting role was my calling. In high school I was the ‘counsellor’ to all of my friends, bursting with confessions, dilemmas of being a teenager and the more serious family breakdowns, depression and addiction. This ignited my passion and curiosity for psychology, how the human mind works. 3 years of an undergraduate degree, a 2% margin that didn’t allow me to further my study and an opportunity to work in adolescent mental health all lead to me to the work I do today. I love my job but have come up against challenges that had me questioning everything I knew, almost to the point of giving up. My belief that my work may inspire the tiniest difference in a young person’s life is enough to drive me to strive for more, be better at what I do and to step outside my comfort zone to sit with the uncomfortableness of the challenges that will always await.
We’re always making choices. Are you choosing for your story or for someone else’s?
This question got me thinking really hard, as I constantly question myself about what I’m doing and why. I think I mostly make choices about my story that make me happy, adding value and reason to everyday. I believe we all sometimes do things that we may not necessarily choose for ourselves and this may be influenced by someone else’s story but that in fact can have an impact on our story that otherwise we would never have known. I made a conscious decision a few years ago to live my life for me, not for others, not for expectations and not to feel guilty for saying no.
Thank you Courtney for such a thoughtful Conversation on the Couch. We are looking forward to your Up Close & Personal article about your personal experience with suicide, The Phone Call that Changed My Life.