A Candid Conversation with Jessica, Creator of "Along the Way"
(Guest Post by Aaron Prasad)
In an internet world full of cat memes, controversies, and generally distracting chaos, this has been one place I can rely on weekly to take a step back from my life and reflect, usually with a Sunday morning latte in my hand. And you know what? There has not been a single post that Jess has produced that hasn’t left me thinking, “Hm, now that’s really interesting—I like that.”
I try to surround myself with only the coolest of people—people much cooler than me. I want to respect, admire, lean on, and be astounded by those I spend time with. I want to think to myself, “Damn, this person is badass.” In general, that’s a pretty short list. Some days it’s only a handful of people but Jessica never fails to make the list…In fact, there have been days when she is the list. Her strength, creativity and determination are obvious even after simply reading her blog posts, but they don’t even scratch the surface of the person I have had the privilege of calling my friend. So I was delighted when she allowed me to pick her brain about her blogging experience and post it here in honour of her birthday today.
Jess always has a quote or a song lyric or a self-written poem that captures our focus to start, and here’s my attempt:
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
- Søren Kierkegaard
With that, let’s launch into our conversation and hopefully a greater understanding of the person I’ve come to hold in such high regard.
Aaron: Hey Jess!
Aaron: Ok, enough small talk, let’s get going. How has the blogging process affected you over the last ten months?
Jessica: Profoundly! It’s neat having complete creative freedom with something. To me, the blog feels like a playground that I’ve designed and built, where I can play around with ideas and experiment with my writing however I want. This might be the first thing I’ve ever made that’s just mine.
The blog also allows me to connect with others from a very personal, intimate place, which feels pretty special. I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember and I’ve always written in journals, especially over the past few years, so the blog feels like a natural extension of that.
Aaron: I view the last couple of years as pretty life-changing for you. What comes to mind when you think about the things you’ve taken on and worked through?
Yeah, I agree; I have gone through a lot of changes in the past two years and I’m so grateful that you’ve been there for me through it all! Almost exactly two years ago, in January, I joined a yoga studio and that has definitely been life-changing for me. At the time, I was also in counselling, and started journalling more regularly. I found the combination of yoga and journalling to be so effective that I was able to let go of the need for counselling and rely on those practices instead for my mental health, self-awareness, and sense of clarity I was seeking.
I also quit my job almost two years ago, which was a huge change. Then, within a few weeks of making that decision, the pandemic hit, which was a life-changing experience for just about everyone!
Since then, I’ve made lots of little changes with regard to sustainability habits, lifestyle experiments, the blog, volunteering opportunities, food, exercise, meditation, etc!
I like to look at all of these changes - both the self-initiated ones and the externally imposed ones - as connected. For me, the past couple of years have been all about learning, reflecting, and discovering more about myself and how I relate to the world. Acceptance and tapping into resilience have also been key for me.
(I can hear Jessica in my head making sure I mention that counselling is absolutely something that people should use when they are in need but I would be remiss if I didn’t make obvious the deeper point here: It wasn’t that the counselling wasn’t effective, but the time she spent deliberately listening to and learning about herself through the yoga and journalling gave her enough guidance to feel confident in her direction.)
Aaron: I know your sustainability focus has emanated from the environmental standpoint. Has that changed or evolved at all?
Jessica: Yeah...When I began, it was very much about zero-waste and simple sustainability habits, and those are still very much a part of my daily life. But I’ve also been experimenting with slowing things down, a kind of anti-convenience approach, so to speak. Like, instead of just throwing a ready-made meal in the oven and then shovelling it into our bodies, what does it feel like to make a meal from scratch out of freshly grown, local ingredients? I know the kitchen is not where everybody experiences joy, but I love experimenting with food and really taking my time. When I approach things this way, I find there is something so worthwhile to be experienced in the slower, more deliberate process.
Side note: You gotta try her BBQ tempeh. But I digest…She continues…
Jessica: I’ve also become quite anti-consumerist. It’s like I’m playing a game where I try not to buy things. If I need something, I’ll try to repurpose something I already have or borrow it from someone, or at the very least I’ll try to find a second-hand option rather than buying new. For example, instead of buying winter running pants - a very specific item - I tried running in these fleece-lined yoga pants I already had that were way too hot for yoga, and they were perfect!
Mind-blown emoji. I hope she shares the story of how she found a dress for her brother’s wedding here at some point. I guess she’ll have to now!
I find myself remembering a phone conversation where Jess was describing washing some dishes one night, which she turned into a physical and mental mindfulness exercise…and then started singing and dancing. I’m sure you can all agree none of those things are conducive to efficient dish clean up, but she was able to find joy in it. That particular feeling continues to elude me when I do dishes.
Aaron: What have you learned along the way?
Jessica: I’ve learned a lot about myself, but what really comes to mind is the patterns that I’ve noticed: Structure and chaos. Self-doubt and self-assurance. Clarity and indecision. Knowing and not knowing. I also seem to alternate between building things and smashing them to pieces, then choosing which pieces I want to take along with me. These patterns seem inevitable for me, but recognizing that they are patterns, I can accept all of these different phases as part of who I am and find the beauty in both sides.
Aaron: In your world, what does “success” look like to you?
Jessica: Hm…I reject your question! Haha. But only because it’s you…If someone else was interviewing me, I’d probably answer them politely.
I wonder if that word is becoming irrelevant, at least for me. “Success” implies judgement; that there is some sort of ultimate desired outcome, and anything short of that is thought of as “failure.” I think the process and the actions themselves have value. Instead of success, I prefer to consider the qualities of connection, growth, presence and authenticity.
I’m begging her to expound upon that thought in future posts!
In closing: I believe the meaning of life is to find meaning in our lives. Or, as the famous Oscar Wilde put it,
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
It is this quote I use to celebrate you, Jess. Happy Birthday!
Do you have a playground in your life where you can experiment? What does it look like?
What is the tool you can always rely on when you need it? For me, it’s my bikes, indoor and otherwise.
Have you ever taken the long way around, and gotten lost in the joy?
What patterns in your life do you wrestle with, and how can they serve you?
I hope you’ll forward this blog to your friends and family, and continue subscribing!
Jess here…I guess I just had to get the last word in, even though this is a guest post!
I just needed to say a huge THANK YOU to Aaron for this whole experience. I feel so honoured, loved and celebrated. What an amazing birthday gift!
P.S. I thought I'd share this pic of Aaron and I on one of our many adventures, trying some delicious vegan food at Copper Branch in Waterloo. (Man, I miss outdoor dining weather!)
P.P.S. If you haven't already, be sure to check out the Q&A post where I interviewed Aaron!