This is Life, Based on a True Story  

Grads taking over the world

Another year has come to an end – school year that is. 

For the most part, I’ve always loved the end of the school year. I loved the warmer weather, the no-agenda days and most of all, I loved not having to pack lunches every day (pretty sure I speak on behalf of every parent ever on this one!)

This year was different for me though. This was not only the end of the school year for my daughter – it was also the end of the grade school system for her. She graduated Grade 12 this year.

My feelings over this accomplishment are mixed – in a good way.

I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, parent to experience that utter feeling of pride when watching your child stroll across the stage to receive their diploma.

I had the classic teary moment when they called out her name. It really is true that you live your best life through your children.

Until I had my own, I never really “got” that intense feeling of wanting good things to happen for another person as badly as I do for my own offspring.

And so here I am today, writing this column and I’m still basking in the glow that belongs to my girl.

She’s decided to take some time off, work and play for a bit, maybe/hopefully travel and experience a bit of life, then head off to higher education and conquering the world.

Her dad and I have done our jobs. She’s accomplished a lot in her 18 years and she has much to be proud of.

As I was sitting in the auditorium where the grad ceremony was being held, it struck me that every single one of those kids there that night, were now accomplished young adults – each in their own right.

When the principal was speaking, I knew he was trying to impress upon the graduates his wisdom and years of garnered knowledge.

What he didn’t realize was how much he also impressed it upon me. His words held advice we should all heed: 

  • Leave the world a better place than how you found it.
  • Be grateful. Show gratitude in the big, the small and everyday life.
  • Be accountable for your actions.
  • Make mistakes … but learn from them.

As I looked out over the 300 plus graduates (and that was just half of them. The other half of the alphabet had their ceremony earlier), I couldn’t help but nod along at what was being said.

These are the Y2K babies. Remember the whole Y2K thing? It was spoken of with awe and questions. No one knew what a new century would bring … 

Well, these “babies” have grown up – and now we’re all on the cusp of what they decide.

Their real learning starts now as they head out to forge their paths. Courtesy of the internet, this group of up and comers is one of the most worldly and intelligent generations.

I like this generation of kids. Yes, because I have a couple, but also because these guys are going to change the world.

They grew up fast, but we made them. They have more knowledge at this age than my generation has now in our 40s.

They’re open-minded. They’re accepting. They’re entrepreneurial. They’re outspoken. They’re adaptable. But most importantly, they’re themselves.

They’re what every prior generation has strived to be — and they’re nailing it.

Growing up and maturing is weird. You don’t realize how hard it is till you get through it and look back.

So what can we do to ease them into it? Well, nothing really. Their experiences will be theirs to live, their lives theirs to lead.

All we need to do is let them teach us.

Thanks for reading.


Honest about authenticity

Authenticity is the trendiest buzz word out there these days.

Phrases like “I’m living my authentic life” are uttered with regularity over coffeehouse beverages.

If you’re not sure how to be authentic, there’s an abundance of books, talk shows and weekend retreats that will teach you everything you need to know.

As much as I often say I’m not one to join in on trends, I have to admit, I’ve gone full-on trend with trying to live my own authentic life.

But what does that mean? I’ve seen countless videos and public speakers and coaches all cheering me on and assuring me I’m being authentic.

But stripping it down – beyond the videos and coaching and coffee shop talks – what does me living my authentic life really mean and how does it affect my inner circle?

For that matter, what does any of us living our authentic lives mean?

Without speaking for others, for me it really just means honesty, which sounds kind of lame and obvious. Except that it’s honesty on a level I’ve never taken it to before.

It’s not only about being honest with people, but also with myself even though it can be brutally hard sometimes.

In my quiet, alone moments, facing my own questions and then answering truthfully, even in my own head, can be sobering and a huge reality check.

It’s not that I lied to myself or others about these inner thoughts, it’s more that I just didn’t want to confront them because really, ignorance is bliss.

So I would just ignore the issue … the whole “if you can’t see, it must not be there” mentality.

The issues I chose to ignore varied on different days. But my favourites were:

  • my bank account and credit card balance
  • my marital breakdown
  • my current relationship
  • my friends
  • and, most important, what is my purpose in life.

That last one – my purpose – really has me wrapped around its finger. It’s weird to know what you want out of life, but not be sure how to get to it.

What I’ve found interesting is how me “living authentically” has changed how I deal with the world around me.

I’m notorious for not replying to a non-urgent text from my friends till a couple days or more later after I received it. It’s not that I don’t see it right away, but rather that I plan to reply “when I have time.”

But time can be elusive.

In the past, I’d make up a lame excuse like I didn’t receive the text till now or I’d lost my phone.

But living authentically has me just honestly saying “Sorry for my late reply.” And that’s it – nothing else. There’s no point in justifying my laziness or forgetfulness.

As minor as this may seem, it’s empowering. I didn’t reply to you in a timely manner, I’m an ass. It’s nothing personal.

This has also parlayed into other, more significant situations. If I have an issue with someone – be it a co-worker, a family member or a friend, I just call it out directly with that person.

It usually results in me realizing I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Or in the cases where it is something – I now can just confront it head on.

Sometimes it causes a bit of awkwardness, but mostly, people are receptive and willing to hash it out.

Being authentic has also made me be more me. I don’t live a Facebook life, and I’m quite OK with people knowing that.

Even this column … I love writing it, but I struggle with topics when there’s no immediate personal crisis happening.

I read readers comments and see how many views I get — often with my heart somewhere in my throat.

I’m the first to admit that as petty and small as it may be to you – to me, it means something. It’s kind of like getting Facebook and Instagram likes.

It’s validation that what I’m doing is creating emotion for others – be it good or bad.

I guess that’s my life purpose – affecting others. Preferably in a positive manner, but, understandably, not always.

It’s real. It’s every day. It’s who I am. It’s authentic.

Thanks for reading.

Using kids as divorce pawns

Some parents need to grow up and smarten up.

I was told about a couple who had separated — badly — and they share custody of their two pre-teen children.

In an effort to be the “better parent,” both mom and dad have been going to extreme efforts to win the kids over.

Birthdays and Christmases have been over the top at each home with the kids being showered with presents and parties.

Both parents are adamant that they don’t bad-mouth the other in front of their kids, but instead vent their frustrations to friends.

In all fairness, the parents are doing what they think is best for the kids and trying to ensure the kids know they are immensely loved by both of them, despite the marital breakdown.

While the two parents often struggle to keep their bitter feelings toward the other to themselves, they both agree on keeping the kids far away from it. Which is why I was angered when I heard about their latest issue.

The mom wants to take the kids to a friend’s wedding in the United States. She would be travelling with both kids, her current boyfriend and his children.

The problem is the dad refuses to sign for their younger child to get a passport. The older child already has a passport, so that’s not a problem. But the mom wants to take both kids.

Dad is refusing because he says he’s not sure the kids will be safe being that far away from home. The funny thing is that the kids have actually travelled a further distance already with the mom — just within Canada, so a passport wasn’t required.

I’m told the dad is jealous he’s not the one taking the kids on this trip, so he’s making it difficult. Apparently, he had planned a similar trip just a year prior, but was unable to follow through.

The mom and her boyfriend have travelled together a number of times with all their kids with nary a complaint from the dad. So the mom is understandably frustrated by the dad’s refusal to allow one of the kids to go … and why just one.

It doesn’t make sense.

This has led to yelling matches and threats by each parent to not let the other see the kids. What was starting to become a reasonably managed, post-separation relationship is now completely obliterated by this sudden change in attitude.

This whole situation just makes me irritated. Parents need to start loving their kids more than they hate their ex.

In an effort to “get back” at their ex or “punish” them for long past wrong-doings, the only people who are being hurt in these scenarios are the kids stuck in the middle.

Why should the child have to miss out on a fabulous trip because one parent is jealous they’re not the one going?

The child doesn’t understand the background story behind it – nor do they care. They only know they’re being prevented from going on a fabulous trip.

When a parent is blinded by jealousy or anger – be it over a new partner of their ex, trips or material things – they tend to lose sight of the child’s best interests by trying to justify the reasons for their actions.

And let’s face it, some of these reasons can be pretty convincing and parents have a duty to look out for their kids when the kids are too young to do so for themselves.

But pettiness is not in favour of the child’s interests – it’s just an attempt to hurt the other parent in the worst way possible – through the child.

So I go back to what I say in the beginning – some parents need to grow up. The separation and divorce is between you and your ex – not the children.

Put the effort you’d spend on making your ex miserable into making your kids happy. That will be a far bigger payoff for them in the end – and for you too.

Thanks for reading.


KISSing the basics

You know the adage about going back to basics and keeping it simple?

There seems to be a lot of this type of chatter going around lately. I often wonder if this is typical with every generation as they approach and journey through their 40s and 50s.

Or is it something that seems to be getting harder to achieve, so we talk about it more like we would talk about any other dream?

Many of my peers seem to be in this same thought pattern — going back to the basic necessities and creating simplicity where complexity currently lives.

I consider myself very lucky to have two brothers who are pretty cool. Not only do I love and connect with each of them deeply, but they also keep me realistic and challenge me on my opinions — including this one.

While talking with my younger brother about this topic of simplicity, he really gave me pause for thought.

As I was expressing my unexplainable, intense desire to just simplify my life and cut out the “rah-rah,” he asked me what I was hoping to achieve by doing that.

Well, obviously, I want to have more freedom to live life the way it’s supposed to be lived — with enjoyment and experiences. The way I’m living now is just to literally pay my bills and then go into debt to have fun — except that it’s not fun.

For so long, it was very important to me to have a nice house in a nice neighbourhood and drive a nice car to go to my nice job.

Well, if that was the be-all and end-all to happiness, then call me an over-achiever because I have all of that and then some.

But with all of that came more of other stuff I hadn’t thought about: more financial burden, more comparison to the next person, more rushing to the next best thing and definitely more stress.

All the stuff I’d wanted to attain and that I’d thought would make me happier and more grateful, actually gave me less — far less.

I have less sleep, less vacations, less time to do what I want, less money in my bank account and less connection with the people I love the most.

I recently saw an online video about how we all kill ourselves to go to work for hours everyday to pay for houses we can't spend time in because we're too busy working to pay for them ... how true is that?!

I wrote a couple of months ago about how being in Maui gave me a smack-in-the-face realization that less is more.

With no access to Wifi in most public places, I was forced to disconnect. The reminder of how simple it is to not worry if you left your phone at home was startling.

And it also made me yearn again for simpler times. It made me slow down for 10 glorious days and appreciate life for the moments it gave me — not the Facebook or Instagram post.

Even today, I have these weird, unexplained remembrances of how easy and simple life used to be — way back in the 1970s. Before technology and modern-day influences took over. It can be something as simple as a song on the radio that makes me nostalgic for the ease of those days.

My brother had another take on it. He, too, has a bunch of friends who are wanting to simplify and in his own way, he’s on the same path.

His reasoning behind it though is that it’s for a deeper, spiritual connection — be it religion or ethereal based. We all have the innate desire to go back to our roots at a DNA, molecular level.

He thinks it’s because it’s where we come from. We stem from simplicity and love. And as we get older, whether we consciously realize it or not, we want to recreate that.

Even now, as I write this, I struggle to make this sound as good as he did. Mostly because I don’t want to tick anyone off by speaking too religiously or too universally. As much as I like to create conversation, I also hate creating controversy.

All summed up though, my brother gave me insight in a different way — always a good thing. Thank heavens for family that can call you on it …

My plans to simplify have gone full steam ahead … I’ve put my house up for sale and have set clear goals to live a life filled with more vacations, less workday. More gratitude, less attitude. More experience, less stress.

And whatever your reason for simplifying — if it works for you, it doesn’t matter what others think.

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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