And why it’s often more complicated than you think

A road in a forest with a single beam of sunlight breaking through the trees
A road in a forest with a single beam of sunlight breaking through the trees
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

And I say to myself:
a moon will rise
from my darkness.

— MAHMOUD DARWISH

Hope is what remains in Pandora’s box after, despite Zeus warning her not to, she succumbs to her curiosity and lifts the lid.

Opening the box unleashes all the evils into the world: hate, greed, envy, war, poverty, death… But as she realizes what she’s done and slams the lid shut, hope is caught. Hope, says the myth, is left for humans to weather what has been unleashed, a bulwark against all the negative and horrible experiences they will now have to face.

There’s another interpretation of the tale, however. After all why, in a box full of only awful things, is hope there at all? This alternative idea is that hope is just as dreadful as the other evils; it remains for humans as more of a curse than a blessing. …


How Creating Helps Us Make Space for Grief

A backpacker stands in front of a forest shrouded in fog
A backpacker stands in front of a forest shrouded in fog
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Where can I be / That I will not find loss?
- Miguel Hernandez

Early in lockdown, when the bookshops and libraries were shut, I ordered a small stack of used books online. Like many, I was looking for entertainment and distraction. Art can be a great escape from the serious business of life.

Yet somehow within my selection, I picked up The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion — a non-fiction account of the fragmented moments and memories that made up the year following husband John Gregory Dunne’s sudden death. …


As borders re-open, it’s a chance to build a less exploitative tourism sector

Tower bridge in London with vintage upright bicycle in foreground.
Tower bridge in London with vintage upright bicycle in foreground.

A few weeks ago I cycled to Tower Bridge in London along canal paths and through pretty parks. It has been a funny time to get to know a new place. With tourists and many temporary residents long gone, it feels like a town rather than a world city. And yet the character is still there — perhaps even more visible when stripped back.

I’ve gotten to know the city in solitude, from the periphery, as I’ve watched mutual aid networks spring up in WhatsApp groups, peaceful protests sweep into the green, and groups of families, guitarists, acrobats, and tai-chi practitioners reclaim the use of public parks at scale. …


Feeling the fear? Here’s how to get to grips when things are falling apart.

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Break down or break open. The choice is yours. Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

“This awful catastrophe is not the end but the beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.”

— St. Augustine

On my last essential trip in to central London, Oxford Circus felt like a small town. …


Getting rid of my possessions taught me about letting go of more than just stuff

A couple stand in a kitchen in front of a stove cooking together with backs to the camera
A couple stand in a kitchen in front of a stove cooking together with backs to the camera
Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

When my partner and I bought our first house, I thought that was it. For the first time in my adult life, I was settled.

Up until that point, I had moved almost every year for fifteen years as I changed universities, studied abroad, completed internships and jobs, went to graduate school, and relocated overseas. Throughout these moves, I traveled light. Now, I wanted to stay awhile.

I said goodbye to arguments with bad landlords nickel-and-diming me over pre-existing minor stains. I left behind the Ikea furniture, the black plastic couch too short to stretch out on for a decent nap, the creaky mattresses, and the strangely common and uncomfortable glass-top tables. …


This birthday brought out the listicle in me

Little girl in party hat sitting in front of cake with candles about to blow them out
Little girl in party hat sitting in front of cake with candles about to blow them out
Photo by Jorge Ibanez on Unsplash

The lookout wasn’t visible from the path because you had to go up a few steps to reach a kind of landing. A fellow hiker had arrived first and came bounding down the steps, telling me to close my eyes. Taking me by the hand, he slowly led me up and walked me to the cliff edge.

I opened my eyes to look out onto… fog. Thick, grey, accumulating fog obscuring any hope of a view to the lush, green, flooded valley below. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“It’s a metaphor,” the traveler said to me as we watched the clouds roll by. “Like the screen in meditation. The view is still there. Just the experience of it changes.” I pretended I knew what he meant as he went off to take medicine that he said aided his own meditations. …


Feeling disconnected? This could be why.

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

“When I jerk away from holding hands with you
I know these habits hurt important parts of you.”
— Tegan and Sara

You send a meme to that cute girl you’ve been on a few dates with that reminds you of a conversation you had. You know it’s received because you see the two grey ticks. But it goes unread.

Your colleague asks if you want to grab a drink after work, but you’re so swamped. You snap at them, saying it must be nice to have the time for that, but you just don’t.

Your little boy runs up to you in the park to show you a rock that he found. You agree it’s a very cool looking rock as you pocket it to take back to his collection, ruffling his hair before he runs off to keep exploring. …


I could travel alone in far-flung places. Why couldn’t I rely on others when I needed them?

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Photo: Carley Centen

“Shoes off! Give ’em here. There’re no shoes for the next four days.”

It’s Christmas Eve. I try to imagine my nieces and nephews in Toronto at this moment, gathered around a tree full of sparkling lights, snowflakes suspended in cold currents outside, while I’m slathering on the highest SPF I could find from a Panamanian pharmacy. I remove my Havaianas and add them to the pile on the dock.

“No shoes, no showers, no wifi,” captain André reaffirms, bouncing from dock to boat. He’s already barefoot, wearing baggy shorts and a half-open shirt over a well-tanned, tall frame. …


Three lessons on creativity after going from worker drone to independent creative

Two hands, palms up, covered in dark blue, black, and green pigments.
Two hands, palms up, covered in dark blue, black, and green pigments.
Fact #1: It’s usually messy. Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

I just wrote a story about frozen peas and their anthropomorphized journey from the frozen tundra of their bag to an inexplicably warming black sea. I have no idea where it came from. I don’t like peas. I don’t remember the last time I ate a pea. I don’t have peas in my house. I don’t even, at present, own a freezer.

It was an exercise in freewriting where I told myself to write whatever popped into my head. There was no prompt and a bag of frozen peas is what came to mind. (How weird is consciousness?) The resulting epic was one of deep separation and loss, exposing the ways in which we deny the inescapable realities of death with poignant parallels to humanity’s race against time in the fight against climate change. …


(That’s not the same thing as saying it’s your fault if you’re not)

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Language is so imprecise. …

About

Carley Centen

Exploring why we do what we do in love and work for those curious to understand more about themselves, others, and the world. More: http://lnk.bio/aNXQ

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