On my birthday, I often instinctively think: Wow, I'm so lucky, to have the life I have, the friends and family who care about me, the poetry slam scene, the journalism work sustaining me, a healthy body and mind.
But more often than not, I push that pop-up thought out of my head and remember there wasn't much luck involved. I didn't happen upon the spoken word scene, I didn't enjoy journalistic assignments falling into my lap.
It all took work. And long hours. And networking. And time taking on responsibilities that others would stiff-arm.
Like Toronto Poetry Slam. Not everyone has the bandwidth to start an arts series from scratch, later assembling a killer crew of volunteer poets and poetry fans who help run the slam and other shows. There was no luck involved here. We pack the Drake Hotel every two weeks because we all work tirelessly to promote the show, strategizing on how to advertise effectively on Facebook or bridging the gap between our scene and the literary scene. Case in point: In 2017 we partnered with Toronto's International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre, the first partnership of this kind. That wasn't luck.
I'm not where I heard the following line, but I suspect it was in Terminator 2, of all places: There's no fate but what we make ourselves. Was it fate I started Toronto Poetry Slam and now it's become one of the most popular literary events in Canada? Was it fate I decided to become a freelance journalist two years ago and have enjoyed the kind of success I never thought would come to me so soon into the 'lancing world?
No. I focused on my goal and went for it. I put on horse-blinders and didn't sway from my mission, whether it was to get published in The Washington Post or working out more than twice a week (I average 3x/week now) or writing my first solo show (book off May 10, folks!).
So on my birthday, I like to look back at what got me to where I am today. And I'm proud to say there was little luck involved and a whole boatload of blood, sweat and fears I may fail. But I haven't. Which has me on perma-smile right now as I type this post.
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