Advice From the 12th Floor

Don’t be the stick in your own wheel

Jayde Atchison // Columnist

If there was something that could go wrong in a situation, I would often be the first to voice my concerns and point out the negatives that might ruin the plans. I don’t know if this was pessimism or realism, but it was something I allowed to be a staple in my daily life. I think I liked knowing the worst case scenario because then I wouldn’t be surprised when life inevitably threw me a curveball. However, what I was really doing was setting myself up for disaster at every turn. 

I said “no” so many times that it became an instinctual response when offers that scared me came around. Not scared like when walking through a well-done haunted house, scared like when you walk into the unknown and don’t know if you will fly or fall. I have lived a significant part of my three decades remaining safe in spaces where I knew how things would turn out. I stayed in a job that I didn’t love because it paid my way through university, and allowed me to live comfortably in my own apartment downtown for five years. 

It took me waiting until I was dreading work every morning before I made a change. I didn’t know there was more waiting for me outside of paying my bills and doing what society said I should. My neighbour Richard came into my life and he saw I was trying to ride the bike of life with a stick deeply embedded in the wheels. He saw me saying no without even trying to find a way to say yes. 

Richard admits that he has fallen victim to throwing a stick in his own wheels while making his way through life – but he tries to identify when it’s happening. However, more often than not he will open up his heart and mind to what the universe threw at him. When Richard and his mother Odette planned a trip to Germany, they were heading into an unusually frigid winter where the temperature dipped below zero. Instead of dreading the weather or submitting to what could be an unpleasant trip, they decided it was going to be a fantastic trip and they would do everything they could to make it so. 

Shifting my career at 30 to something that paid minimum wage for its entry level job was one of the scariest decisions I have made in my life (cutting my own hair when I was eight was a close second). I was sprinting head first into financial uncertainty, and I was undeniably thrilled about it. I had loved one’s tell me their concerns and confusion why I was making this questionable leap. 

I explained the opportunities that would be available to me, and it was all inspired by the jolly man upstairs. He was in this industry for half of his life and it shaped a healthy portion of his adventures, so naturally he knew what possibilities were coming my way. His string of stories primarily stem from his exciting job, and I wanted to make life happen. 

In high school, I failed French 8 spectacularly. From that moment, I believed I would never succeed in a second language. I deterred myself from trying to learn French, or any other language because I was sure that I was incapable of more than English. Once I began a stint of Duolingo in the summer before a trip to France, I practised French every day for half an hour. My comprehension and vocabulary expanded and I slowly pulled the stick out from my wheels. 

Richard spent months at a time learning German as an adult. He moved to different cities in Germany and would study, explore and absorb the culture. Richard saw me making the attempt to make my life happen and he cheered me on. He saw my drive and he suggested I take a similar life-changing journey like he did when he was younger. Paris, Quebec City, Montreal, Lyon – he opened my eyes to where I could end up studying. 

The lessons I have learned from Richard are a commitment to living my life to the fullest. It’s a promise to live with love, to be scandalous when the situation calls for it, to pull the stick out of my wheels and, ultimately, to make my life happen – because no one else will take on the job. Take a chance on life, and it will take a chance on you as well. Take Richard’s words of wisdom and connect with the world around you, say yes, and find the beauty in each day. The advice from the 12th floor has yet to fail me, because as Richard says, “I don’t remember the last time I was wrong”. 

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