Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remembering Carla.

A few months ago I went back to my old elementary school for a work project. Walking through the doors was strange, just being inside of the building evoked feelings and memories of my childhood that I'd long forgotten. The halls were strangely tiny and familiar.

There are only a few places that can take you back into a different time of your life like a school can.

As I was leaving I walked past rows and rows of grade six class photos hanging on the wall. I immediately looked for mine and for my sisters' pictures. I was in awe of how small we were; how dated the photos were. It seemed like so long ago, yet the memories were flooding back to me.

I examined the photos, looking for familiar faces and names, and I came across a girl I knew named Carla Caldwell. Carla was a girl who lived in the same housing complex as me. She and I weren't really friends, because she was a year older, but we went to school and brownies together and we played with the same kids around the neighbourhood.

Carla is someone I would have probably forgotten about, like so many of the people I grew up with, except, unlike the rest of those people, Carla's life (and sudden death) haunted (and perhaps still haunt) all of us who knew her.

In 1991 Carla and her little brother Jamie were murdered by their father in a botched murder suicide attempt during their weekend visit to his Sherbrook Street apartment. Their father, Carl, was a sick man, who stole his young children's lives for reasons I'm not sure anyone can explain. (He succeeded in killing himself in jail a year or two later.)

Finding Carla's picture at school brought back so many emotions and memories. I feel such sadness when I think about Carla and Jamie. I think about their mother, and the profound sense of loss she will carry for the rest of her life. I think about the two kids who never had the chance to grow up and experience life. I think about the kids who grew up with Carla and Jamie who will always be haunted with memories and what ifs.

I've tried to google her over the years, looking to review her case with a set of grown up eyes, to no avail. (I would like to rummage through old newspapers one day when I have time...) The only piece of Carla that I can find is on the walls of my old elementary school.

RIP Carla and Jamie.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Musings for a new year

Looking ahead to 2012, it's a fresh slate for all of us.

I can't predict what the new year will bring, but I can assure that 2012 will be met with good times and bad times, happiness and sorrow. We will experience new things, meet new friends, stay connected with old friends, and continue on with what's already familiar to us. Perhaps for some of us, the new year will see us lose friends, fall out of love, or mourn the passing of someone we will love forever.

Life is unpredictable, the only thing we can control is how we deal with it.

This year, if I may, I have some advice for all of us; advice I want to heed in my own life, so that I can be a better person. Advice that will be hard to live by, yet will make life easier in the long run. Advice that will make the world a better place.

Defy odds by not letting people determine the outcome of your life: It's easy to give up the moment someone tells you that something is impossible. Yet there are people who defy the odds every single day, creating miracles, because they didn't let somebody else tell them they couldn't do something. These are the people who change the world and pave the way for the rest of us. These are leaders, who aren't afraid to think and try things for themselves. Even if they fail, these are the people that find peace in failure because they discovered it on their own.

Always change, never conform: Always strive to change, because that's what life is about; growth and change. Learn new things, do things that you enjoy and try doing things that scare you. Take a leap of faith every once in awhile. Don't do things just because other people want you to, do them because you want to do them. Life is too short to try and appease others. The greatest relationships are the ones with people who truly like you, not the ones who only certain aspects of you. We can't control other people, the way they act, think or feel. But we can control ourselves.

It's exhausting to try and be somebody you're not, so don't.

Be good to others: Kindness can change the world because empathy and compassion are contagious. Treat others as you would like to be treated, and almost all of the time the treatment will be reciprocated. You will have experiences with people who are unpleasant and mean, that's just one of those inevitables in life, but learning to turn the other cheek without being abused is an art form that only serve to build character and make you better.

Give without expecting anything in return. Try not to judge people; you have no idea what kind of life they've had. Be genuine, honest and respectful. It will take work, perhaps even a lifetime to achieve, but the intrinsic rewards will be plenty.

Read so you always have something other than yourself to talk about. Let yourself really laugh at something funny, even if it's loud and embarassing. Tell people how important they are to you before it's too late– The most touching eulogies are the ones we give to people while they're still alive. Sometimes the most important thing we can do for other people is tell them how much they mean to us.

Be good to yourself: Respect yourself and others will respect you. Don't settle for a relationship, a job or a lifestyle that you're just OK with. Always strive for what you want; if you work hard enough you will get it.

Don't hate people, it will only serve to make you bitter. Let those people go. Living well is the best "revenge" anyway.

Take time to listen to people, and save your good conversations and thoughts for people who want to listen to you. You are the ruler of your life, never give that away.

All the best in 2012 friends, may we all work toward making the world a better place.