Curated by Komal: The Power of Visualization and Amplifying Your Life

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WELCOME! 

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

This week, our word of inspiration is: visualization.

I’m sitting in an office today working on building the company of my dreams. A few months ago, I didn’t think this was going to be possible. When I was at the peak of my sickness, I didn’t believe I would be able to come back to work and to do what I love. I didn’t think I’d be able to take a stage again, or that I would be able to think of my career in the same was as I did in the past -- I thought my life had changed forever.

In the thick of my burnout and sickness, visualization and dreaming seemed like painful taunts of a life I wouldn’t be able to experience anymore. Dreaming of an imagined future goal or hope felt futile when I struggled so hard to merely wake-up (and not fall over) in the mornings. Yet, slowly, every single day, more and more light came into my life.

Consistently, over time, I went to the appointments I needed to, I managed business logistics to decrease my overall stress, I met with my mindset coach/therapist to overcome my depression, and I did what I didn’t think was possible. I healed.

A few weeks ago, something incredible started happening. I slowly began visualizing my future self living a normal life. I began seeing myself walk onto stages, I began imagining my commute into the city every day with Mitch and dropping him off and heading over to my office and seeing Kylie in the mornings, I began believing in what I once thought was impossible. 

That is the power of belief. That is the power of putting in the work and time to heal and rise. And that is the power that each of us hold to amplify our lives in whatever ways we deem and dream necessary. My life has indeed changed, I've become stronger and more resilient that I had ever thought I'd need to be.

So, what do you dream to achieve? We hope today’s newsletter can plant a few seeds as to how to ensure your visualizations become reality. With slow and steady progress, and a commitment to your personal growth, you will get there

We’re in this together.

This week’s instalment of Curated by Komal includes our weekly series, Her Business: Stories from the Frontlines of Modern Entrepreneurship. This week’s article explores the power of visualization and how to stay accountable to your dreams. What we want you to watch this week is Lena Waithe’s Emmy’s acceptance speech -- she dreamed of taking that stage as a black queer woman, and through her incredible writing of the Thanksgiving episode of Master of None, she made that dream a reality. From there dive into this week’s articles sourced by Kylie, and don’t forget to  get your tickets for my event with Rupi Kaur on November 12th at the Museum of History in Gatineau. We’re over halfway sold out (!!!), and I wouldn’t want you to miss it.

Let us know what you think of this week’s content. (Ps -- you can subscribe to the newsletter here.) What dreams are you wanting to bring to life, and what can we bring your way every week to help you get there? Email me at komal@komedia.ca, I can’t wait to hear from you.

Signing off with love, until next Tuesday at 9 am,

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the vlog

This week Mitch and I head to NYC, and I reflect on what it's like to return to the city I had to leave suddenly after getting sick. There's some major heart-to-heart action in this episode.

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome back for part two of a 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Her Business: Stories from the Frontlines of Modern Entrepreneurship.

This week, we make the case for visualization as a tool for building a fulfilling life. We chat with experts and successful entrepreneurs to learn how putting your dreams out into the universe can manifest great things. 

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium!
 

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we're watching...

I was up late watching the  Emmy's last night, and may have shed a few tears because of the level of heart-opening diversity on that stage! At 27, seeing people with my skin colour on that stage winning these incredible awards made me realize, maybe I could do it too. We've been watching Lena Waithe’s Emmy acceptance speech, over and over, but did you also see her earlier Instagram post about visualizing herself at the Emmys as a kid, or how about Ava Duvernay's tweet about Lena's hustle?
 

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we're reading...

  • This Medium piece, which we’re loving because the author describes visualization in a different way -- he calls it decision -- but also because he recognizes how non-negotiable self-care practices are, not only in the doing stage, but also in the dreaming and planning and “deciding” stages.
  • Hillary Clinton in conversation with America Ferrera, on what happens when what you dreamed for yourself (and for your country) doesn’t come to light.
  • This woman’s meditation on what it means to live her life authentically, regardless of the pressure that pervasive Western values have put on her identity.
  • A Dreamer’s account of what it feels like to be given the right to imagine a fulfilling life, only to have it abruptly and unkindly taken away five years later (a personal reflection on the DACA changes in the US).
  • Why the fall still feels like a time for planning and new beginnings, even when there’s no more "first day of school".
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we recommend...

Applying to attend the Obama Foundation's Summit along with hundreds of other civic leaders in Chicago later this month. (Hoping to get my ish together an applying this week, maybe see you there! Also, I took this picture at my first Clinton Global Initiative, still blows my mind.)

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Curated by Komal: Welcome!

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

As I sit to write today's letter, it's 10 pm the Monday before I launch this newsletter. I thought we'd be able to have everything set to go by 5 pm, but alas, my optimistic timelines weren't quite on point. Even though it's late, and I'm so ready for bed, something feels incredibly grounding and reassuring about this moment. It could be that it's been about a decade in the making, or that it marks my official comeback to work and career that I've longed for since I stepped away from Dream, Girl and my life nine months ago after getting sick.

The reason that resonates the most with me right now, is that this newsletter -- this space I want to create and hold for each of you every week -- is the strongest commitment to my self I have ever made. In this moment, I am smiling ear to ear. I have the privilege of doing what I love on my own terms. 'What I love' is hosting, curating, and creating for an audience who believes in me. I want to deliver new original content alongside content from others that has changed how I think about and see the world. Being able to create this newsletter for you is such an incredible gift in my life.

So as with any gift, I can't wait for you to peel back the layers of wrapping and get to the good stuff. First, a huge thank you to Renira for the incredible design and help with my slow and steady rebrand. 

Scroll down for my first weekly vlog, and the launch of Her Business: Stories from the Frontlines of Modern Entrepreneurship on Medium, brought to you by Kylie Adair of the KoMedia team. From there, get into all the things we're listening to, reading, and recommending. And don't forget to get your tickets (link down below) to my event with the New York Times bestselling poet, Rupi Kaur in Ottawa on November 12th.

Welcome to the first instalment of of Curated by Komal. Can't wait to land in your inbox every Tuesday! (You can subscribe here.) Also, I'd love to hear your feedback this week. If you feel compelled, shoot me an email with your thoughts about today's newsletter at komal@komedia.ca


With love,

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the vlog

Join me each week to see the behind-the-scenes action at KoMedia. Here's a look at our first day in the office!

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part one of a 20-part series we're launching on Medium called, Her Business: Stories from the Frontlines of Modern Entrepreneurship.

This week, we talk about the social factors behind the stats on the many thousands of women who are starting their own businesses. What exactly is driving them to dive into entrepreneurship? How have their motives changed in recent years?

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium to find out!

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we're listening to...

On my way to NYC this weekend, I turned on this podcast from Lewis Howes and planned to dose off. Instead, I was riveted by Dr. Michael Gervais, the sports psychologist working with the Seattle Seahawks, and many other world class athletes and leaders. His description of the concept of recovery in the realm of being a world class leader, and the belief that our limitlessness comes from compassion for the self, is so on point.

Listen to this conversation if you’re ready to take your mindset to the next level.

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we're reading...

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we recommend...

Checking out and applying for one of these 20 fully funded fellowships, curated by a friend of KoMedia, Shaaz Nasir.

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Happiness, pass it on.

With Tolfino and Yuki, our friends Sam and Josh's beautiful adopted pups enroute to Yosemite!

With Tolfino and Yuki, our friends Sam and Josh's beautiful adopted pups enroute to Yosemite!

I am literally not able to get this smile off my face! What a new feeling!! Joy just because. Appreciation and gratitude as a natural state? WHAT IS THIS EVEN!

I feel like my body and mind were so taxed that survival was all I could do for a long time. The front end of this year hurt me so much. It hurt so many people around me. The decisions I had to make, the way things had to happen. It was a pain, hurt, and anger party.

It's been a couple of weeks now. I've been consistent with my meditation practice. I've been walking, hiking, working out, 2-3 times a week. I've continued to eat whatever I want, but with gusto and joy instead of anger and an intention to numb.

Then this feeling started creeping up on me, and came on full force when we took time to go to California just because. Full. On. Happiness. In the quiet moments, contentment. On the rollercoasters (literal, not figurative this time ;-)), a deep sense of calm. An assuredness I've only really read about. And it hasn't been fleeting. It's the state I've started to consistently come back to. A few weeks of wellness is a lot for me these days! What a gift!

Our third time on Space Mountain!

Our third time on Space Mountain!

This joy is so light, it's so new, it's so welcomed! 

So I'd like to pass it on. I was just sitting here smiling so big, catching up on life stuff, and realized, if there was ever an emotion or experience to share it's this one. A simple moment. Filled with an emotion I found elusive for so long. 

This weekend, I hope you find moments of joy. Even if it's just one, take note of it, and come back to it when you need it.

Happy Easter/Vaisakhi/everything else folks! It's a time of new beginnings! Make it count!

 

To begin again: Where I've been, and what's been going on.

After a slow and steady hike in Vancouver in Feb. 

After a slow and steady hike in Vancouver in Feb. 

It's hard to know at the outset if this is going to be a gentle experience, or exceptionally turbulent. The experience being that of sitting down to write again. 

It's been well over a year since I've felt in control of my experiences, thoughts, and words. Writing for me is a form of catharsis and processing. But something deeply troubling was happening for the last year or more. My physical, lived experience continued to take up a painful amount of space in my heart, mind, and soul. I could not be still. Still long enough to reflect and be fully with what being sick was doing to me.

I struggled to know what to say, let alone how to say it. My life has been so deeply intertwined in others', I was so exhausted, and living from a place of survival only. What was mine? What was theirs? What was real? What was real?

My life has been one of extremes -- often going starkly from 0-100, or 100-1000, and I found myself sprinting to try and keep up. I went from living life in NYC, running a start-up, keeping up with the Joneses to semi-isolation 20-mins outside of Ottawa on an acreage. From the bright lights and hustle, to spying on the turkey's as they make their daily rounds scavenging food from the compost to the bird feeders and back again.

Pirate Koko reporting from the darkness of her cave.

Pirate Koko reporting from the darkness of her cave.

Speaking of bright lights… it may be time to let this loose. In early January when I arrived back in NYC from our winter break for the company, I suddenly lost vision in my left eye and started experiencing severe migraines, and other neurological issues. I later found out what I had was optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Strangely enough, it was not connected to my concussion from December. 

Naturally. Because that’s my life 😂.

From January 10th to February 23rd our lives changed dramatically. For the first two weeks after the onset of symptoms, I experienced severe photophobia, vertigo, and sensory overwhelm, to the point where I would have to self-medicate to leave the house and to travel on the subway.

Prior to coming back to NYC in January, I had decided that I would move back to Ottawa at some point in 2017. I had hoped it would be after continuing some core work with Dream, Girl, but things clearly did not shake out that way. 

We very quickly packed up our essentials and moved back to Ottawa in late January after my acute symptoms passed and I could handle the car ride. 

It felt so surreal. In so many ways this is what I ‘wanted’, there was no doubt it was 100% what I needed (two weeks of vision therapy in NYC racked up well over $2000 in bills, so my appreciation for the Canadian health care system has become even more immense), but none of it was ‘on my terms’. I’ve only realized in the past few days, now that my stress has normalized, and I am back at a base functioning capacity, that I had almost no active agency in how this transpired. Because of the severity of what I was experiencing, I had no time, space, or energy to do much else but survive.

Optic neuritis, I would later find out, is connected with a number if illnesses, and in 60% of cases that my neurologist has seen, it is linked to multiple sclerosis.

So there was that.

I remember leaving the optometrist’s office after she dropped the potential MS bomb and just crying, so hard. It was raining outside, we were still in Brooklyn, and between the eye patch, sunglasses, rain, and tears streaming down my face, I am surprised I made it home, I am so appreciative that Mitch was there to guide me back.

I read a short essay recently that described life post-cancer. The author described the five stages of recovery. One was essentially that after survival, for a while, you have a heightened expectation and belief of any diagnosis. You’re wired to be in survival mode and for me it was prolonged by my concussion and this onset, so when I heard MS, I began preparing for the worst, and praying for the best.

We came home that day, and I cried. I cried hard. The pain was seeping out of me in sounds and words I couldn’t process or understand. The pain drenched my cheeks and shirt. The pain found its way into Mitch’s embrace, and he led me back to calm.

I was safe. This could be nothing. We are going to survive this like everything that’s come before.

This expedited our move significantly. I needed an MRI of my brain, I needed a neurologist, and I needed answers to help mitigate my stress, and to actually begin a long needed and required recovery.

After visiting my wonderful neurologist a few weeks after arriving home, we had my MRI done and were told about a small lesion in my right frontal lobe. I do not meet the McDonald criteria for MS, which is good news at this point. We will have a follow-up MRI in a year, and my neurologist has advised me to go on with my life as normal. If anything neurological flares up, or we find another lesion in a year, we’ll take it from there.

A clean(ish) bill of health!

I received that news a few hours after having to take the stage at a large business conference back home in Grande Prairie. I was so nervous and struggling with bringing that talk together. It was 45-mins long, I had just left DG, we had not publicly shared anything, and two days before the talk I had a sensory overwhelm panic attack while sitting with my family that left me tired and scared. I was so scared taking that stage that I might have an acute episode, or have my vision loss become more severe while on stage. It took all the strength I had left to make it through and cross that final barrier.

That was the official beginning of this new chapter.

We have moved in with Mitch’s dad in Carp, and we love it. We’ve changed the carpets, painted the walls, and brought even more life to this loving home.

Office transformation! As I was recovering, I loved watching Mr. Kate videos on YouTube!

Office transformation! As I was recovering, I loved watching Mr. Kate videos on YouTube!

Papa Joe has been such a light for me. When I was in my recovery from both my surgeries last year, we stayed out here and it’s a beautiful sanctuary for me. It’s a place where I’ve healed, and will heal even more fully. Him and Mitch make me laugh, and I feel safe to be whatever version of me I need to be as I heal. This is a place of real love.

My ‘full-time’ gig is my health. I’m working closely again with Steph over at EPIC Fitness to get active, to move my body, and come back to what I love: feeling strong and capable in my body. I’ve built a team of healthcare and complimentary care professionals who are helping me address root causes of my sicknesses (Hashimoto’s disease + cancer + concussion + optic neuritis all in two years seems like a lot), a big focus of this is food, cranial sacral therapy, thyroid-supporting meds, vision therapy (I still don't have my full vision back), and emotional release and processing.

Baby time has been great for the brain and heart. Love these little boos!

Baby time has been great for the brain and heart. Love these little boos!

I do find joy in creating, and with the slowing down and having almost three weeks now of ‘normal’ and ‘average’, and no travel, I am getting a sense of what my life can look and feel like without tremendous physical, emotional, and psychological stress.

What does this all mean for my ‘work’.

Down time = ideation time. I refuse to run a mile a minute anymore. I am responsible for changing the patterns and habits of a life that exacerbated such significant and severe health challenges, so that is my priority. As I eventually build my team, begin writing, and look at future projects or investments, I am going to take. my. time. I am going to have fun. Pause. Laugh. Do what I want, when I want. My mantra right now is slow and steady wins the race. The more time and space I make for myself right now, the better I will become. 

So much of the stress that compounded for me this past year was feeling like I was not in control of my own life. I didn’t take accountability and do what I needed to do to be happy, healthy, and free.

So now’s that time.

Seeing as though this is my first post back, I know there’s a lot here, and there’s no real synthesis or cohesive theme, message, or takeaway. That’s because I just need to get this out to continue. To keep taking my next steps forward, and to tune into and cultivate my voice even more. More fully. More deeply. More authentically, and hopefully with more impact.

There’s so much I’ve been through that I would like to share in the hopes of helping others. So that is my mission. How can I use my processing, and natural desires (to write, for example) to help others as I create this next chapter. 

Stay tuned as I figure it out <3.

With love,

- Komal

A New Chapter Begins: Leaving Dream, Girl's Daily Operations

From our first time meeting to our final video of last year and everything in between, my gratitude for Erin and our team is immense. 

From our first time meeting to our final video of last year and everything in between, my gratitude for Erin and our team is immense. 

It's taken me some time to get these words right, here they are for all of you: So much has changed and so fast, and it's time to fill you in.

 

I stepped back from the day-to-day operations of Dream, Girl and our distribution team in early January to rest and begin the next chapter of my life back in Ottawa. I am grateful for the contributions I made with our incredible team, and I couldn't be more proud of everything we accomplished and the impact we've had.

 

The past two and a half years of this journey have been unforgettable. I could not have dreamt of a better partner-in-crime than Erin to have walked this path with, each of us elevating the other and this movement with total abandon and heart every step of the way.

 

My gratitude to Erin, Diana, Kylie, and our team is immense. I so look forward to watching, alongside each of you and our investors, as they continue to move the company forward to share our mission to economically empower women and girls through the film and future content (like DG's new web series, Your Moment of Ambition!).

 

The events of last year left an indelible mark on my life, and it's time for me to hold space for my personal experiences and to continue cultivating my health and joy once more.

 

I look forward to sharing this next chapter on my blog (http://www.komalminhas.com) and on Instagram (@komalkminhas) and my official Facebook Page (https://m.facebook.com/komalkminhas/). Join me as I discover my new rhythm for creating, consulting, producing, speaking and investing in KoMedia's corner of the web and at future events across the globe.

 

With love,

 

Komal

Cancer, The White House, and Oprah all walk into a bar... the craziest three months of my life.

Koko, OPRAH, Erin

You guys… I can’t event with life right now.

What is even happening?

Even as I write these words, I know what’s happening. Everything that’s meant to.

Can we just. I haven’t written since May. Since then, many, many, many things have happened. 😂 😂 😂

Here’s a brief chronology:

  • May 2nd: Went under for my first surgery to remove the cancer in my leg. My surgeon removed about two Mars bars from my leg. Started recovery on some heavy heavy meds. Didn’t know how to slow down, started ‘working’ the next day. Was in a lot of pain for a good three weeks.

  • May 24th: In the throws of preparing for our White House premiere, got a call while standing in line at Staples with Diana as we were buying DVDs to burn the movie onto for Erin, that I indeed need a second surgery. They got all the cancer, which is great. But they needed to take another Mars bar out to make sure it doesn’t come back. FML. *Proceeds to hand credit card to Staples cashier*.

  • May 26th: My first pain free day, and the DAY WE PREMIERE OUR FIRST FILM AT THE FREAKING WHITE HOUSE. So many of our family and dearest friends were in the room with us. Erin and I cry when the film is complete, and hug each other in the aisle as we receive our first standing ovation for Dream, Girl. The cat’s out of the bag, and we couldn’t be more terrified and happy.

  • June 9th: We premiere our film in NYC at the iconic Paris Theater to 600 people, most of whom, WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW, WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE, THE COOLEST, MOST AMAZING PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They made me cry, they stood up and cheered their hearts out for us. They gasped, laughed, cried, and cheered throughout our film. They loved our characters (REAL WOMEN). We had a Q&A that was one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. Then we partied on an NYC rooftop with the skyline behind us for many hours, celebrating one of the best nights of our lives.

Proud Mama at The Paris Theatre at our World Premiere.

Proud Mama at The Paris Theatre at our World Premiere.

  • June 10th - July: We undergo a number of identity crises, life crises, exhaustion crises, etc… and get back to work booking screenings, and figuring out how to both spread the film globally, and generate revenue to build our company up. Thousands of people around the world see the film. I also prepare for my next surgery while still recovering from the first. I go on my first run. I cry after because it’s the first time I’ve felt free in my body in over a year. I also cry from the pain of my incision post-run. I take a taxi home from the park because it hurt so much.

  • Early July - July 13th: I go home for an amazing family wedding and to start unwinding as I feel like I'm going to crash and burn. Erin is holding down the fort, and begins working with Diana and Kylie to pivot and streamline our sales and distribution processes, which is technically my wheelhouse. She crushes and makes space for me to process what’s about to happen. My first magazine cover ever is released. I have the best visit ever with my family, and start to feel the fear bubbling up for this next surgery. I head back to Ottawa.

Day 2.

Day 2.

  • July 14th: Surgery day. Also, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was awake for this surgery, and it was the worst patient experience of my life. I’ll likely share more when I’ve better processed it. Lots of blood, lots of squeezing my eyes shut, a lack of freezing, and a huge amount of gratitude for the Summer 2016 playlist I made with my sisters.

  • July 14th - August 3rd: Recovery. Battle with a lot of negative thoughts, feelings, emotions. Healing my body. Healing my mind. Resting my nervous system and beginning to feel ‘normal’. Managing pain, but actually turning off, and tuning out. Lots of movies. Lots of love. Some of the most uncomfortable and hard days of my life. The day I found out, final final, that I am cancer free and need no more surgeries. That time Erin and Sal got to go on VACATION!

  • August 4th: The day we get to share that we are on Oprah’s #SuperSoul100 list. The day I did my first full day of work post-op. The day I realized my brain was still only at 60%. The day I was so eternally grateful for the Dream, Girl Team (Diana, Kylie, Prasanna, Maggie!). The day I felt more confident than I ever had in my life.

August 4th. The day I loved myself so fully, I could truly be present for the people around me.

August 4th. The day I will look back on (and read this post from) so I can remember, so vividly, the day I realized the purpose, foundation, fabric of my life. The day I accepted that the only thing I am meant to do in this life is help others by loving myself, and making good in this world.

August 4th. The day I looked myself in the mirror before bed and said... “I am proud of you. I am proud of what you’ve overcome, what you’ve survived the past 26 years, and what you choose to do in this world. I am proud of how you choose to make others feel.” I am proud of who I am.

I never want to forget this feeling. I never want to forget this day.

So many SHINY things have happened this year. Moments of acknowledgement, and moments of praise. I am in such deep gratitude to these moments, for helping uplift the impact of Dream, Girl, and for helping me at my core realize what matters to me most.

I have come through both the best and worst six months of my life. I survived cancer. I was slammed down to the concrete by life. And I was uplifted by meaningful, impactful, change driven work. I was brought back to life by love. By Mitch, my parents (and in-laws), my siblings, Erin, my best friends, our team, so many strangers. I did not rise because of the shiny. I did not rise because of Oprah, or magazines, or premieres. I rose because people loved me. They loved me back to health. Their love showed me the power of my own love. I have given these people every single ounce of me. And they gave it right back to me.

They loved me so hard, I fell in love with myself.

Today, because of Oprah, and her legacy of impact, and the resonance her name brings, I woke up from my recovery to a chorus of love that’s made me the most confident woman I have ever been.

I am ready. I am ready for this next chapter*. I am ready to rise, fall, be beat to the ground, and to rise again. Loved. Healed. Rested. And more resilient than ever.

 

*Don’t worry, I’m going to rest a while longer, then get to everything I’ve said above 😂 😂 😂

 

Cancer, thanks for the most confusing relationship of my life.

If you stay right here, and live right here, the world will grow bigger and clearer and more terrifying and more beautiful than it’s ever been before. That’s what happens when you refuse to look away or protect yourself from what’s right in front of you. You can take in the full scope of what you have and what you stand to lose. You can see past the jibber-jabber and the noise and the empty shiny distractions. You understand how little time you have left. You are finally wide awake.
— Heather Havrilesky
Post-op on May 2nd.

Post-op on May 2nd.

I have been so worried about writing this post. I've tried a dozen times, but I just don't know where to start or what to say.

Truth be told, I'm really mad and angry at cancer. I hate it... and yet, at moments, I am also grateful to it all at once. A paradox that I can't help but laugh and cry at.

Tomorrow I find out if they did in fact remove all of the cancer cells two weeks ago when they removed the equivalent of two Snickers bars from my leg. Two weeks ago, I had no idea what this recovery period would look or feel like. I had been so focused on getting to my surgery day, sane, and positive, that I didn't take a moment to ask myself or anyone else, what it would be like to be in recovery.

I wish I had. It's been 15 days, and I am still in pain. I am so frustrated, angry, and sad. My mobility, or lack thereof, has been the most constant reminder of what we just went through. Everyday I wake up, and as I move slowly out of my bed, and put pressure on my leg, I am reminded of the past two and a half months of agony. Of waking up unsure of what the day will be like, trying my best to choose positive thoughts and actions, while feeling as though there's an anchor weighing down my spirit and my life.

Fuck you cancer.

The day I was diagnosed with you, we were set to launch our new distribution system, to help spread and proliferate the impact of Dream, Girl around the world. Because of you, we were delayed, and now, as we have to alter our sales process with limited time before our launch, I look back on 'wasted time' spent worrying about you, dealing with you, and trying to find ways to accept you. All I want to do is help others, share our mission with the world, be there for Erin, but all you're making me do is question my very existence and capacity for action. EFF YOU.

The next month is going to change our lives. Dream, Girl is going to be released to the world, this gift we have been creating for two years... I am so full, so overwhelmed, so in awe of how much we can handle and persevere through. Cancer, you're one hell of a curve ball, and there's so many moments when I just can't help but laugh at the circumstances of my life. Like, WTF IS LIFE RIGHT NOW!?

You have made me so acutely aware of my humanity, of the impermanence of human life. You've forced me to deeply understand that I have no business expecting anything of this life. That my greatest gratitude must come from each breath I have the privilege of taking, and every time I get to say 'I love you,' to the people I love. Although this often brings me great sadness, I've become so aware of what matters most to me in this life. For this, I thank you cancer.

I thank you for helping me question and understand my desire the past two weeks to disassociate from my pain and anguish, to numb out. You've helped me realize that as I learn to accept my circumstances, and surrender to the hand that's been dealt to me, I can choose love, and choose compassion both for my circumstances, and for those suffering so much more than me. I can let others touch my heart, and I can get out of my head and move past my own story.

Hanging with the fam post-op.

Hanging with the fam post-op.

You brought my family together. Because of you, my parents stayed with Mitch's family, and they spent great, meaningful time together. In no other scenario would this have happened. Considering this silver lining, how could I not be grateful to you cancer?

You've made me take care of my nutrition, you've made me fight for me health. Thank you.

You led me to meeting a Buddhist monk who spoke to my soul. You showed me the depth of love, caring, passion, and grit my best friend and business partner is capable of mustering. You showed me my resilience, and ability to come back to my light and joy in the face of the greatest challenge. You showed me how loved I truly am. You reminded me of the people in my life I am blessed to call my friends and family. You gave me an opportunity to show up for myself.

You have also blessed me with a story, and an experience, that I can share with others who are going through similar, or worse experiences. To enable our collective empathy and compassion to grow.

You've brought richness to my life. But you've also brought waves of the greatest sorrow I've ever known. You've left me suspended in oblivion held by a golden thread that gives me life.

You've made sure I never take anything for granted ever again.

Courtesy of Katie and WANTcast.

Courtesy of Katie and WANTcast.

To live a full life is a privilege. To do the work that we do through Dream, Girl is a privilege. To have the supports that I do is a privilege. To have access to great health care and health supports is a privilege. Thank you for these reminders.

Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, I hope to make the best of the hand I've been dealt. To keep finding the courage to take the next step forward. To break open and show up through my greatest highs and lowest lows.

I never would have imagined that my life would look like this on any front. But today, in this moment, I hold the deepest gratitude to every challenge and joy that has come my way, and every challenge and joy that is yet to come -- for experiencing them as fully as possible is the most needed reminder that I am truly alive.

Meet my wellness team!

I just got back from my first time in a gym in months! As I was leaving, I had the biggest grin plastered on my face. I couldn't help but smile! 

You guys... I had energy to move my body. We did a movement assessment, not a workout, but looking around the gym, and seeing what my trainer had built, and how like me she is in her ambition, drive, and passion, made me feel right at home. 

Meet Stephanie Karlovits - my movement expert

She really is this awesome!

She really is this awesome!

It's been a slow build as I've been working with Steph. Her best friend is my best friend's brother. So we're basically family. 

Steph and I connected at my first public keynote in Ottawa last year at Ladies Who Lunch. I was promoting Dream, Girl, and she suggested I stop by her gym, Epic Fitness + Lifestyle, for a workout. I loved her energy immediately. So assured, confident, and kind. We didn't get on a call until January of this year, but as soon as we dived in, I knew I found a soul sister.

She helped me define my health manifesto, and supported me in realizing how I was relating to food, and how I could shift that relationship. She helped me understand that listening to my body, resting, and moving gently was not weakness, but was in fact just honouring where I was at.

She sat with me on Skype and explained exactly what cancer was when I was diagnosed. She took the time to make sure both energetically, and scientifically, I understood why this was happening to my body. 

Her gym, Epic Fitness + Lifestyle is a sanctuary for excellence and growth. As soon as I walked in today, I was in love.

Most of my relationship with Steph has been online, so being in her temple today was so invigorating. To occupy the space where someone you trust, and have on your team is in their element and where they shine so bright is such a gift. Her power and strength in that space has enabled me to know that I am truly on my way back to being STRONG. To moving my body with power and confidence. To doing burpees to my heart's content, and to getting back to doing full push-ups. To holding myself upside down in a handstand for as long as I want. These are my dreams - to be strong, to be in a headspace to dream of doing a standing back tuck, to having fun with my dreams for my body! Because, why not? To also knowing that I am both in control and not in control of my wellness, and that's okay, because if I need to I will pivot and adjust according to my needs. It's not all or nothing as I once believed, but I get to choose what I want this to be like.

God, this feels so good to write. What a powerhouse to be working with! Also, she's climbing Machu Picchu soon, and is fundraising $5000 to do it, interested in supporting her? Click here!

Next up...

Meet Jumanah Beck - my nutritionist

1/2 of her cookbooks that are amazing!

1/2 of her cookbooks that are amazing!

I heard of Jumanah and EarthSuit Nutrition through a friend I met online, Courtney McCarthy. Courtney has been open and courageous in sharing her own wellness journey online, and I was inspired to find out how she found success. She worked with Jumanah, and sang her praises!

I was sad to realize I would have to wait a number of months to work with her - her waitlist was 3-months! So in December I booked my sessions from Feb-April and was pumped to begin with her.

Our first meeting was on Skype, and she immediately offered support and meaningful advice for my acne, fatigue, lethargy, bloating, and everything in-between. It took my cancer diagnosis to really commit to the meal plans I had coming in from Jumanah, but once I did, I felt so good! After ten days of consistent commitment to her treatment meal plan, I had never felt better - actually! 

I tape the weekly meal plans she sends to my wall in the kitchen, and I order in my groceries every Sunday on Instacart. I use my Sunday evenings for food prep, and the meals are so simple and fun to make! Cauliflower mash is an example - it tastes even better than mashes potatoes! I also rigged a black eyed pea curry that I love! I have fun with the cooking, and it makes me feel so powerful and strong to know I am healing my own body!

Jumanah noted my low testosterone levels, and my spike in estrogen before my periods that cause a huge amount of cramps, pain and acne for me. She supplemented me, and this month I had my first pain free period in my adult life. Through the food she's prescribing, she's confident my body will be able to do this on its own soon. I feel such a relief to know that.

Finally, she see's me - really sees me. She understands my lifestyle, she's an entrepreneur herself, and reminds me to be kind to myself. Perfection is a disease, she says. She prescribes laughter to help my adrenal glands which are taxed and may be cause so much of the disruptions in my body with high levels of cortisol and adrenaline leading to high stress and fatigue. Who doesn't want more laughter in life? And she's making it a part of my to-do list which is exactly how I work.

It feels so liberating to see my food truly as medicine. It enables making healthy, life-supporting choices so much easier. And as those of you who have been reading along for the past year know, this is a huge breakthrough for me.

Last, but not least...

Meet Braelin Thornton - my financial advisor

The first moment I met Braelin, I knew we had to work together. She is equal parts passion, excitement, vision, and genuine brilliance. She has found creative expression through brilliantly managing her client's financial portfolios and dreams. 

That first day, I told Braelin that I want to build my portfolio into the billions. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eye, and said, 'Great, let's do it'. 

You might be wondering why I am including Braelin in my wellness team, but for me, a healthy attitude towards our spending and financial dreams is critical to our overall physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Braelin helps me see my financial goals as part of my personal mission in this world. Through getting a handle on my good and bad spending habits and beliefs, I can amplify my impact tenfold. 

Money is so hard to discuss and be about, but it, at its core, is simply energy. We move it from one place to another, and the more positivity, joy, and excitement we bring to it, the more abundant and impactful we can become.

My go to example for this is often Oprah. She has built an empire on helping millions feel heard, seen, and supported. Without her financial abundance and belief in herself, so many of our lives would be so much more bleak.

Braelin understands my dreams, my goals, my passion for discipline and determination. She's helping me feel empowered with my spending choices as I face my diagnosis. I am an emotional spender at times, but being able to name and face my bad habits head on, and to not spend my power away is very liberating.

She's helped me see that investing in my health, and in the things that bring me genuine joy is so good for my soul! Investing in Steph, in Jumanah, in her, and in the rest of the team I want to eventually bring on is going to help me expand in my dreams and impact.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also take a village to get you healthy, happy, and to walk confidently towards that vision you have of yourself.

My friend Julie Beun told me she gave the following advice to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs last week and it stuck with me: decide the vision of who you truly want to be, what you want to embody in your values, your morals, and your impact, and walk confidently towards her (that vision of yourself) everyday. 

I see who I am becoming, and who I want to be in this world, and everyday I am taking steps towards her. Confidently, and so fully supported.

This all comes from a willingness to want to be better (whatever that may mean for you), and to ask for help. We can't achieve our dreams and goals alone, so reach out, ask for help, find the ones who get you, and you'll soar.

So I'll ask: I'm on the lookout for a great executive coach, and myofascial release (MFR) therapist, alongside a powerful energy healer. If you know of any, let me know!

On a final note. I've had the best four days of my life this week. Through the simplicity of passion, work, friendship, family, and self-love.

Even with cancer the world is bright, and full. Make today awesome folks.

Go do some epic shit. 

Feeling like myself again... for now.

A person can only have so much control over their mental state of mind when it feels like they're in the epicentre of a tornado.

That's been what this past month has felt like. I've had to begin 'living' in two cities again, my energy and mental clarity have been hazy at best, and I've realized, life for everyone around me continues moving forward with no pause for the weight of the experience I am going through. Add onto this mix a five-day fever, and you have me feeling the worst I've felt in years, and questioning every ounce of my self-worth with no perceived end in sight.

And that's why days like today are awesome. I'm not naive enough to think I'm on 'the other side' and that days won't keep sucking, and that I won't go down the rabbit hole of self-hatred anymore, but I have become so much more aware, and grateful for, the days that feel good. The days where I love myself, the days where I can really receive love from the people around me, the days where I remember my value, and the value of what I have to offer this world. The days when I can open my laptop and feel strong enough to think and work. 

Rather, I suppose it's moments like these, not days.

Waking up this morning was hard. Getting out of bed, opening my mind up to the fleury of the world and e-mails, and acknowledgements I am not apart of, and work that is being questioned, all enabling me to stare deep into that rabbit hole of self pity and a really bad day.

But then I made a choice. To call Mitch, and to lay all my insecurities bare, and to talk. To share. To ask for help, and another perspective to lift me back to life. To remind me of my worth, and what I am capable of. 

I am so used to thinking I have to go this alone. That I have to be strong enough to make it out of this. But that's only part of the story. I need help. Lots of it. I needed my mom here last week to take care of me, and I need her and Mitch everyday to remind me of who I am, because when you're sick, or when you're grieving, or when you're facing a disease that scares the crap out of you, you need help.

Asking for help is an act of bravery and courage, and it comes from you. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you better.

I was listening to Tony Robbins and Oprah yesterday because I needed a psychological lift, and Tony talked about something that resonated really deeply for me. Post-traumatic growth. One's ability to rise from trauma - our resilience and courage manifest when we are able to stand back up on our own two feet with our loved ones lifting us up. Our ability to look back and say, 'See how powerful that helped me become?'

Hearing about post-traumatic growth made me feel strong. It gave me space to breathe, it made me remember everything I've grown through, everything I've had to face in my life, and everything that has brought me to this moment. This reprieve from my mind, this moment of clarity, and words, and worth, and work. Today, in this moment, I feel like me again. The version of me that serves myself and the world most.

Every corner of this experience is so unbearably hard. But knowing I'm going to survive, and knowing that this struggle isn't forever, is the greatest hope I can hold onto. 

So here's to more and more moments of mental freedom, and the courage to ask for help to make it through the rest.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.
— Bob Marley

Two days ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It's highly treatable, and I want to talk about it.

I was diagnosed with a rare, and highly treatable form of cancer, Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans. It was the biggest surprise of my life when it happened, but I'm feeling really good and positive about it and about my treatment options and success rate for being cancer free. Writing and sharing helps me process, so here we go!

March 3rd, 2016 - The day I was diagnosed.

March 3rd, 2016 - The day I was diagnosed.

The Diagnosis

I came back to Ottawa from NYC after moving after the New Year for a follow-up with my doctor on some thyroid issues I've been having. What I was told next was totally out of left field and has made the past 48-hours the most surreal of my life.

In December, I had two tumours removed from my right calf and upper thigh. Both were said to be benign. They were removed in a tiny room in a walk-in-clinic in Ottawa, and the surgeon was wearing jeans and let me and Mitch record him dissecting the tumours when they came out. It was the coolest thing. What I remember distinctly, is when we examined the second tumour (from my upper thigh), he said it had two parts to it, and as we cut it open he told me what he saw was extremely rare. 'One in a million people have this,' he said, 'It's a dermatofibroma'.

'Is it cancer?' I asked.

 'No,' he said, 'but we'll send it for a biopsy anyways'.

Then began a whirlwind period of time. I went back to Alberta for the holidays, showed off my cool scars and gross video to my family, had my cousin-sister remove my stitches in the guest bedroom of my brother's house, and then I came back to Ottawa, and moved my life to New York City to embark on year two of working on our start-up and planning to crush everything that lays ahead for Dream, Girl and our movement.

**Cue montage of hardworking ladies working their assess off to accomplish their biggest dreams in NYC... **

...then yesterday, as I sat on the crinkly paper on the bed in the examination room waiting for a requisition for blood work, I asked the doctor about a letter I had received.

'It said some results are in that need to be discussed, but I'm not sure what they'd be from,' I said forgetting about December's biopsy.

The doctor looked it up in his tablet, and he mumbled, 'No one has talked to you about this yet? These results came back in January.'

'No, I just got the letter yesterday.' I said. 

He started explaining how I needed to see a specialist, and he would put the referral in. It was one of my tumours from December. It came back and it's something really rare.

'Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans,' he said. 

Sarcoma... I knew that was cancer, and so I asked as the shock set in...

'It's cancer?'

'Yes, it's cancer. It's very rare. One in a million people are diagnosed with this annually.'

I felt the blood rush to my head, and I said so naively, 'I feel overwhelmed, really overwhelmed. Is that normal?'

He gave an uncomfortable, but sympathetic laugh. 'Yes, that is very normal, are you okay?'

I could feel my adrenaline pumping, I could feel the fear creeping in, and I did all that I could to stay as present and aware as possible. To hold onto every word as tears started rolling down my cheeks...

'They didn't get all of it during the first removal...'

'We will take care of you, don't worry...'

'You will hear back soon...'

'Do you need anything else?...'

I didn't want to cry anymore in that room beyond my first set of tears. I breathed deeply and asked for my blood work requisition for my thyroid hormones, and I walked out.

I got in my car, and drove to somewhere familiar, the parking lot by my house. I called Mitch, he was at work and couldn't answer. I called my brother, and I let myself finally react.

'Vickram Bhaji... I have cancer.'


A luminary (lit in honour of someone who has had cancer) from the 2010 Relay for Life.

A luminary (lit in honour of someone who has had cancer) from the 2010 Relay for Life.

There are going to be a lot of people who are surprised to hear me talk about my diagnosis so soon after finding out about it. But writing and sharing are my form of expression and are my way of processing big parts of my life. So I appreciate the time each of you are taking to hear and feel my story. There is no shame in this diagnosis, and I want to shine a bright light on the fear around it. I will fight this with every ounce of myself.

I admit, I have very little information on my specific prognosis. Here are the facts I've learned about online, so you my dear reader, are as informed as I am.

Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans:

  • Is a very rare form of cancer. It emerges at the top of the skin and is often thought to be a pimple or cyst. It grows very slowly, but when it does, it can grow something like a root system that can penetrate muscle and bone. 
  • With Moh's surgery there is a 98% (!!!!!!!!) chance of removing all the cancer cells and I most likely will not need chemo or radiation. In December they took a big chunk out, but the biopsy indicated that there is still cancer present.
  • I likely only need to see a dermatologist to have it removed in its entirety if it has not penetrated muscle and bone. If it has, I will have a team of specialists helping me figure this out.
  • At this point, I know nothing definitively and am filling in as many blanks as possible with the help of very informed friends and family until I get in for my next appointment.

So why am I sharing this? My history with cancer and what I've learned so far:

Such a fun day in 2007!

Such a fun day in 2007!

My first journal entry in 6th grade was about finding out that a young girl at our school was diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated and felt so sad for her and her family, and expressed myself as eloquently as a 12-year-old could. A few years later I started selling daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society in the atrium of my high school. I then led the 'Think Pink' fundraiser at my school in 11th and 12th grades, and we raised over $10, 000 for the Breast Cancer Foundation and had our whole male faculty wear pink dresses for a day. We made the front page of the local paper!

A year later, I found my first tumour while I was away at university, and went numb. I was doing a breast exam in my dorm room after a shower, just like the women I worked with the year before at the Breast Cancer Foundation advised me to do, and there it was. I had to have my first biopsy at 18, the first of many. 

The survivors who joined us in 2012. Such a powerful night.

The survivors who joined us in 2012. Such a powerful night.

I felt such a lack of support on campus outside of my best friends Heather and Becca who had run the Relay for Life at their high school - a 12-hour overnight fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. It turned out my tumour wasn't cancerous (it was a fibroadenoma, I now have many in my body - benign fibrous growths that pop up every few years and that I monitor), but I had a fire to do something for those affected by cancer on our campus.

So, two years later, we decided to start the Relay for Life at Carleton University. In six years we have raised close to half a million dollars. The last Relay I co-chaired was four years ago this week, the 2016 event is this coming weekend.

One of my favourite nights! The 2012 Relay for Life!

We did it so there could be a community on our campus to talk about these supremely shocking and scary experiences; walking home alone from the doctor's office when you find a tumour, or hearing about a close friend or family member being diagnosed. Cancer thrives on our fear, and sharing and speaking about it, I believe, eviscerates that fear entirely.

After so many years of activism, I feel supremely prepared to face this. But it doesn't make it any less hard, scary, or shocking. 

So here's what I've learned in two days about why this is so important to share and talk about and to not let fester inside you:

  1. Get yourself checked out - it's actually better on the other side!

    • In the words of a sage man I know, 'Play with your boobs and balls folks, get that shit checked.' We get so scared of being diagnosed, but the longer we wait on something the worse it can get. It's not worth it to wait. I am so grateful we have found this cancer and that I get to give it all I've got in saying syonara to it! And truly, waiting is absolutely the hardest part, I now have waited to hear that I both do not, and now do, have cancer. It's better to work through the fear and find out, I promise.
  2. It doesn't matter how good the prognosis is, this is still scary as shit. So I shared it. 

    • I have a very big family, and I made the rounds of calls. I called and messaged my best friends. I had my moments of breakdown. I had my moments of research. I had my moments of thinking about the worst. Most of the moments were of positivity, strength, and sticking to the facts. But CANCER is a scary f***ing word. Also, I know so little about my situation and too much research can absolutely make my brain go down the gutter in the worst ways. So knowledge is power to a point. I let myself read Wikipedia, and WebMD, and a few stories from survivors. Nothing else. Mitch's cuddles helped big time.
  3. Although sharing it is hard, you never know who is working on your behalf.

    • A great benefit of being Indian is that so many of my family members work in the health system. So I have a number of people I love and trust, asking questions and sharing information from colleagues who are most well versed to share it. This is absolutely a privilege I don't take lightly, but one I am eternally grateful for. Overall, the vibe was that this is a 'good' cancer to have, but that I must aggressively seek treatment fast. If there's a remainder of cells so close to my lymph nodes we gotta be as proactive as possible. As a comedic pause, one of my aunt's thought I got this cancer from sun bathing in Mexico a few weeks ago since the growth was on my upper thigh. NOT SO (they don't know why this happens), but so cute. 
  4. I am so grateful for the massive army I have behind me. I hope your support system is strong, or can be made strong.

    • There has been no moment in the past 48-hours that I have felt alone. Every phone call, every text, I am blown away by the support system I have. I will lean, and hard, on everyone. The 'we' statements coming in bring me to tears:
      • 'We've got this.'
      • 'We're going to fight this.'
      • 'We're going to come out on top.'
  5. This cancer will thrive on my fear. So I will continue to shine a light on it.

    • Today, I worked. I stuck to my routine for sanity and progress' sake. Moving forward, I will listen to my body more. I will feel all the feels. I will keep meditating. I will continue down my path of learning how to better nourish my body. I will dive deep into my yoga practice. I will sleep. I will not let this random confused set of cells take up unnecessary emotional real estate in my brain. I will write about it, as often as I need, and I will fight. Hard.

So now what?

Rocking out at Relay 2011 with the Glee Club! 

Rocking out at Relay 2011 with the Glee Club! 

  1. I see the experts.
  2. They help me figure this out.
  3. I will share whatever I feel like sharing with no expectations.
  4. I will continue living my life in NYC and Ottawa as I get treated, and we will go on to launch our film in June! 
  5. I will survive, and be an advocate for conversations around cancer.

There's a lot I want to look into now. My childhood best friend is just emerging from a battle with thyroid cancer. We are both 26. Societally, and biologically something is shifting. The rates of cancer are exponentially increasing, and that's not okay. Prevention is key, but I feel like we have massive systems continuously working against us. But this is a conversation for another time.

All this to say. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel supported. We got this folks.

If you have any questions, or stories to shares, please do! This is a very intense situation and I am happy to create a small pocket of space for us to have a conversation about this (the comments below, Facebook, or my inbox are a good place we can start).

Until next time,

- Koko B. Ware (look it up, thanks for the nickname Meenu Didi)

"Rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

A week away helped create the space for this post.

A week away helped create the space for this post.

I have a bit of a grin on my face because I don't even know where to begin!

The past six weeks have been a whirlwind.

  • I live in Brooklyn now
  • We have a film that is 98% complete (Say whaaaaaa!?)
  • Our sales system for screenings is almost live (this is huge for us!)
  • We are on the cusp of releasing a 20-part web series to the world
  • We sent our rough cut to our first film festival, to the White House and to Glamour Magazine
  • I went on my first vacation in three years, to Mexico for a week
  • I have a health coach and a nutritionist who are helping me navigate life and my biochemical addictions to certain foods, and I love it and am struggling with it all at once
  • I love my apartment and have put my whole heart into making it feel like home
  • I am finally living close to, and working side-by-side with Erin. Every. Single. Day.
  • I am in a long-distance relationship with the love of my life, Mitch, and it's the hardest thing I've had to do
  • This is real life.

My body feels tired just thinking about it all!

I wrote a lot about the fear of moving, and resettling from Ottawa to NYC, and now that I'm here, that fear has (mostly) subsided, but let me tell you... flying into NYC instead of Ottawa for the first time, and walking right through customs with my E1 Visa, knowing that I LIVE HERE NOW was insanity.

It's one thing to be in the routine and intensity of our daily work for Dream, Girl, but it's an entirely different beast to come home to my new home after vacation and not know how permanent this is going to be. I have a feeling I'm going to be here for a long time.

I should have seen this coming.


My cozy Brooklyn apartment.

My cozy Brooklyn apartment.

I've been paused for a few minutes, contemplating what to write next. This doesn't feel like my other posts. I have no specific direction I want this piece to go in, or a specific topic that's making my heart sing or scream today, instead, it's like greeting an old friend, and warming up to each other again.

I was listening to Brene Brown's new book on my flight back from Cancun on Friday, and this sentence stayed with me:

"Rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

I feel like I left a lot on the page when I shared the deep vulnerability the night I was packing up my life in Ottawa. I for sure felt a vulnerability hangover, but I actually felt a relief that eclipsed any ounce of shame or fear that could have come up.

I was proud to release the emotions that led to my sobbing and writing that night, but I haven't felt stable enough to do that with all of you since.

To be honest, there is so much hard embedded in all of the dreams and goals, and plans that we have. To 'Dream Big' is to wear your heart on your sleeve at all times, and to understand that sharing vulnerability and authenticity are prerequisites to successfully taking that next leap forward.

Yet I found myself alone on my couch two weeks ago having a panic attack, and succumbing once again, to foods that don't serve me. I felt overwhelmed by loneliness, and feeling as though I had no one I could talk to who could understand what was going on in my life.

To some I would have sounded ungrateful. Others would have used my breakdown as validation that this kind of life is not one worth living, and that perhaps I was not as strong as they once thought. My mom would have held a great deal of fear and longing in her heart to be able to help me feel better, but in that moment I didn't need to instantly feel better. I just needed to feel, to feel seen, to feel heard, and to be reminded that I am loved. Deeply. Instead, I ate. I ate to fill a void that I couldn't name and I couldn't truly fill without opening up and connecting with my loved ones and myself.

IMG_0711.jpg

This is a habit and an addiction that I am willing to name and face now. I don't know how long it's going to take to feel content, strong, courageous, and whole with myself and my relationship with food, but that moment, and so many others before it, have led me to this moment, and naming that I want to be and feel better.

Food has always been my best friend and my comfort. I remember from a young age turning to food to comfort and numb emotions I had no depth or capacity to understand. But I understood food, I understood the artificial flavours, and the 'comfort' I felt.

Now I understand that there is an entire industry that was built on my dependency, and our collective biochemical addiction to many foods that have left me feeling empty and unworthy, and that define so much of my self worth. That night I broke, I hated every moment of feeling alone in this new city, of not having Mitch in my physical space, of feeling no other out but to eat.

I did stop myself, earlier than I would have in the past. I was so much more aware that night than I used to be. I knew exactly what was happening, and I knew I was ready to stop. I don't want to obsess about food anymore, I want to feel all of the good and the bad. I don't want to project so much power on this neutral substance anymore. I don't want to feel helpless to it anymore.

I am ready to have my life exist on one path. Not only my public path that I feel comfortable sharing and projecting, and then going home and hating myself. But rather, having integrity permeate all facets of my existence, and to actually utilizing the amazing community of people and family I have built around myself, and to not hide from them when I am low anymore.

It took some time to come back to calm that night, but Mitch stayed with me on FaceTime until I fell asleep. I went into the office the next day feeling raw, and emotionally hungover. I talked to my health coach, Steph, and she helped me realize and create 'rules' for myself to wake-up in my lowest moments, and to establish an action plan for resilience, and to enable myself to healthily navigate my lowest moments.

I am going to share that here with you today, both as a form of accountability, and hopefully, as a template if you are in need.


My Wellness Manifesto:

Food has been my last emotional resort in moments when I feel overwhelmed and as though I have no one to reach out to or talk to about what’s boiling under the surface. I commit to following the rules listed below, that I have established to prevent this habit from continuing on and to instantly shine a light on all guilt and shame I may feel. To do so:

  1. I will call one of the following people to talk through the emotions I am experiencing and need to further release or understand:
    1. Mitch
    2. Julie
    3. Erin
    4. Steph
    5. Myself
  2. Just as I am selective and thoughtful about the people I surround myself with, I will be extremely particular with what I choose to bring into my home, specifically with food. My home is my sanctuary, it is where I am safe and supported, it is where my food nourishes me.
    1. The foods I will eat are like the friends I listed above. They support me, nourish my mind, body, and soul, and they enable me to live the life of my dreams. These are foods that are nutrient dense, delicious, and that bring vibrancy and truth to my life. These foods bring truth because they do not numb, self-medicate, or sedate me. They force me to feel my emotions, good and bad. These foods are my best friends that allow me to be exactly where I am at, that truly ‘see’ me, and know that I can do anything.
    2. I will remember that food is neutral - it has no agenda. I will remember that it is my actions, not the food, that define me. Each action has either a positive, healthy outcome, or a negative, demeaning, and sinking outcome. I get to choose.
  3. My cause is to live a life of integrity that my audience and those I wish to lead, aspire to. I aim to support my vibrant life every day, through each decision, thought, and action in order to represent to this world, the living embodiment of integrity and of a values-driven life. This is not dependent on any aesthetic or appearance driven goals, but by daily integrity-filled and fuelled actions compounded over time.
    1. In the words of Steph: The strength of feeling your best on stage, and everyday will not come from the result of how you physically look, but it will be a result of every choice, every action that has allowed you to demonstrate your internal strength.  It will be the result of standing up to do what others CANNOT always do for themselves. You are the role model, the manifestation of ‘the best series of choices’ to show others that what is possible in health and in life. THAT is when you will feel at your best.  It will not be from shame, guilt or from not utilizing the resources (people, your self) that exist around you, or the presence of guilt that leads to a great workout.  Remember, food is that last resort friend/ex-boyfriend that needs to be cut off. At the end of that list of great friends… is your SELF... and you are enough to support yourself. You can get through these times with your OWN support, you just don't know it yet.
  4. I will love myself each and everyday of this life. I will understand the slip ups and hard and dark moments, and I will not judge myself for what transpires. I will hold myself accountable for how I react, and how much love I continue to demonstrate to myself. Not just lip-service, but action. ACTIONS that I commit to include:
    1. Daily meditation of 20-45 mins
    2. Daily movement of 20-45 mins
    3. Daily journaling 
    4. Consuming nourishing food to support my vibrant life
    5. Reaching out for support and love when I am in need
    6. Indulging my body with facials, days at the spa, massages, long walks, and clothes and shoes that make me feel like a queen
    7. Being non-judgemental in the moments when any of the above seem impossible, and moving on when I do find the strength I need

By committing to the rules, commitments, and understandings listed above, I hereby manifest my highest self to come forth to, each and every day, live my best possible life.

Food was my drug of choice when I felt alone. I will overcome it, and open up to love. My community, nourishing food, and my love for myself, are what serve me most.


When I started this post today, I didn't expect to share this - my deepest desire, and greatest challenge - with you all. I feel deep shame around the habits and actions I seek to change, but, as Brene Brown shared, "rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

I want to share my journey as I heal this deep wound, and my relationship with using food to nourish vs. numb, that I am on a journey to better understand.

To eliminate shame we have to shine a light on it. Although this feels incredibly vulnerable, and terrifying, here's to using the biggest flashlight I've got.

Resolution! Make A Video Every Week in 2016!

Hola!

I don't know about you, but 2016 already feels like a heck of a ride! This week I am finishing up packing up my house, and on Friday, I am officially (and now legally) living in New York City!

Last year was insanity, and having two weeks off to process it all was wonderful. From Cannes to California, and India to Grande Prairie, I learned so much about my self, and became an excellent traveller (eye mask is a non-negotiable), and businesswoman in 2015.

On December 31st, many of my favourite YouTubers posted videos of their year-in-review. One of my favourites, Casey Neistat, shared how he planned to invest even more time and energy into YouTube. The YouTube community, he's said, has uplifted his career and life to a place of impact he never thought imaginable.

Last year, I took a step back from editing content. I started writing more, and would dabble in videos occasionally, but this year, it's my goal to post one video a week, every Wednesday.

Whether it's simply me talking to camera about life, or answering questions you submit, or vlogging about an awesome trip or experience with Dream, Girl and the move, I want to bring you along for the ride and I want to get back to nourishing my creative soul.

So for this week, I sat down for a Q&A with my moms, Shaminder and Jasmer. I grew up in a conjoined Indian family meaning I lived with my parents, my brother, my aunt and uncle, and my two cousin sisters and cousin brother. It made for a very unique experience, and my mom and aunt (Tayee) made it all the more wonderful and odd.

Listen in as we talk about arranged marriages, having babies at 19, and what a mischievous kid I was growing up. I also had them play a game with me to see how well they knew each other, but for whatever reason, the camera stopped recording. My first fail of the year!

So join me on this added adventure, and let's see what happens! 

Much love,

- Koko 

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening."

Start here, and press play:

Next, join me on a ride.

This song came on last night as Mitch took me for a ride through our old university campus at Carleton University. We do these drives once in a while, to feel the nostalgia in our bones. To remember the stories we've recounted so many times they're ingrained in both our minds - our guides to a life that's passed.

As we drove along the river that held so many memories, I remembered the first time I saw the university sign when I was 15 years old. I was being driven to the airport after a young leaders conference on Parliament Hill.

Someone on that trip told me Carleton was the best journalism school in the country. In that moment, it became my dream to go there.

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening."

After moving into my dorm room at Carleton back in 2007

After moving into my dorm room at Carleton back in 2007

The lyrics electrified my body as we drove through campus. I brought that dream to life eight years ago. And tonight, I was preparing for the next.

Something about this drive was markedly different from all the other loops we've taken around campus. This was the last time we'd drive through campus before I move to New York City.

I moved to Ottawa when I was 17-years-old. I came here fresh faced, scarred in my own special way, and ready to leave a mark. I left Grande Prairie, my hometown since birth with the personal dream to make a life for myself in Ottawa like the one my parents made for themselves in Grande Prairie. To be a household name in the community, known for my work as much as my spirit of service and giving.

As I'm packing up pieces of my life to leave this city that helped me become the woman I am today, I can't help but cry, the bittersweetness stinging my soul.

How can it be so hard in some moments to be excited to leave for NYC to pursue my dreams.

I took Mitch out on a date last night. Isn't he lovely?

I took Mitch out on a date last night. Isn't he lovely?

It's because the dream of Ottawa isn't a hard alternative to accept.

I could live here with Mitch and our best friend Drew, and enjoy the next few years of contentment and love. Then Mitch and I could move into our first home with a big backyard after getting engaged, ready for our big Indian wedding. We could get that second bedroom set-up for our first little angel, and know that the family we've built for ourselves were all 15 minutes away in any given direction.

That would be life.

But instead, I am taking off. To finish and launch the film of my dreams with one of my best friends, Erin. I'm moving into an apartment that costs a small fortune to live a few blocks from her so we can conspire and elevate our lives, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, day-by-day. 

This move isn't about me. It's about impact. It's about more futures than mine. It's about more dreams than mine. It's about so much more than anything my tiny brain can even comprehend.

Sometimes in this process, I feel like an ungrateful child, unable to see the gift that lies ahead, but it's because I'm afraid of my own potential, and the real impact of what it truly is we are doing and creating.

I can't explain it, but I know Dream, Girl is going to change so many people's lives. It's already changed mine so deeply and so profoundly.

It's led me to this moment, sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor in Ottawa, typing this on my packed up and slanted desk, cry laughing at the absurdity of it all.

The current set-up.

The current set-up.

How can this be so hard and so easy all at once? Maybe it's just about naming it all.

I'm going to miss Mitch, his warmth, his attentive gaze every night, his love so accessible and present for me everyday.

I'm going to miss having his mom and dad so close by. I'm going to miss Jordan and Josianne, and Brandon. I'm going to miss the Mirons, and Pras and the crew. I'm going to miss Costco runs with Meena, and familiar drives, going out of my way to drive past Parliament Hill and to revel in the beauty of our amazing country. I'm going to miss late-nights at Fran's with the fam, diving into anything and everything.

I'm going to miss this place where I've made a name for myself, the place that showed me what I'm truly capable of.

It hurts.

But it's going to be okay. Not right now, maybe not even next week.

But it will. On the days that Erin and I have breakthroughs in post-production, or on our press tour, or after our first public talk together. In the moments that women come up to me and tell me how what we've created has profoundly impacted their lives, and how in that moment, they felt seen, and heard, in all their complexity and power - in those moments, it will be more than okay.

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening and it changes everything."

Everything is about to change. And I couldn't be more unprepared.

Let's go, the time is now, and the risk has never felt better.

It's time to throw down, accept these tears and fears, but still take that next leap forward.

Thank you all for believing in me every step of the way, and for helping me build this space where I feel comfortable, proud, and uplifted to share exactly where I am at.

Buckle up, we're about to head into the abyss, and I couldn't be more grateful you're all by my side.

Colouring and podcasts have really helped with the nerves this week. I'm sure it will continue in the coming weeks!

Colouring and podcasts have really helped with the nerves this week. I'm sure it will continue in the coming weeks!

Diagnosis-in-Progress! Get it checked out.

Mitch (as he does) capturing a happy dance before leaving the doctor's.

Mitch (as he does) capturing a happy dance before leaving the doctor's.

On my 26th birthday a few weeks ago, I went to yoga with Louise and had a really wonderful practice. Mitch woke me up that morning, and was in full out 'it's your birthday, let's make this an awesome day' mode. I was so grateful, and so happy.

After practice, there was a soreness in my lower back on the left. Later in the day, I went to get my nails done and had the massage chair focused on that section in my lower back. It was there that I felt a small loonie sized tumour in my lower back. 

Not this again.

When I was 18, I was doing a breast self-exam in my residence dorm room after the shower one day. My music was blaring, and I remembered what one of my mentors from the breast-cancer fundraiser I helped organize in high school told me: conducting self-exams twice a year is helpful in maintaining good breast health. 

So there I was that morning, dancing around my room, feeling around, and there it was. My first tumour. I stopped in my tracks. What the eff is in my boob?

I laid down on my single bed, and double checked. I felt numb. I went to my best friend on the floor (and to this day), Heather's room and asked her to feel it. She did. It was really there. I cried. She and Becca comforted me. I called my mom.

So ensued 2 months of numbness, mixed with trying to manage living halfway across the country from my family, and handling a full university course load. Earlier in the year I had also lost two friends in sudden car crashes, and had lingering grief that I was learning to reconcile with my counsellor. 

When I went home for Reading Week, I had an ultrasound, my first biopsy, and an appointment with my family doctor where she told my mom and I that I was cancer free and that the tumour was a benign fibroadenoma. I still remember the sound my mom made when she heard the news. She was in so much pain inside but kept her composure for me. I was relieved, but the numbness remained.

After first year, Heather and I, alongside so many of our best friends, started the Relay for Life at Carleton to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and to create a community for conversations about cancer on campus.

After first year, Heather and I, alongside so many of our best friends, started the Relay for Life at Carleton to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and to create a community for conversations about cancer on campus.

That was the first of four tumours and growths I've found in the past eight years.

This one in my back I found two weeks ago was the latest. I knew the drill. This tumour moved between tissues, it was round, with no rough edges, all signs that it was benign and a fibrous or fatty tissue growth (fibroadenoma (unique to the breast), or lipoma). The thing that threw me with this one was that it hurt. I hadn't had pain associated with my tumours in the past.

What it looks like to work for me. Dance parties galore.

What it looks like to work for me. Dance parties galore.

Off to the doctor's I went. It took me about a week as Diana was here from Calgary to work on some pre-launch work for Dream, Girl. So last week I got in, and went for my ultrasound. At the same time I had some blood work done for a nutritionist I am going to start working with in February.

On Thursday I went in as the results were in. Again, my loved ones were waiting to hear back. The waiting game is never a fun one. Fortunately, the doctor shared that the tumour was indeed a lipoma, and that with the irritation and pain, I could get it removed if necessary.

Instant relief, I felt elated. Thank the lord this was the case.

The doctor came back in the room a bit later with my blood work results. He asked me if I had a family doctor, and I knew something was up.

Almost everything looked good, he said, but your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (thank you high school Bio for teaching be about my endocrine system)) is ultra high. He indicated that it could be a sign of hypothyroidism and wanted to refer me to an endocrinologist, and have some more tests done. He then asked if I had been experiencing the following:

  • Higher levels of anxiety
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue and tiredness

Check, check, check, check, and check.

Being a total dweeb at the doctor's office. Mitch keeping me company.

Being a total dweeb at the doctor's office. Mitch keeping me company.

I started crying after he left the room. A few weeks ago I posted about my recommitment to health, and since, have had mixed success with my low energy and ability to keep up with all the habits I want to instil. I had beat myself up for so long because I thought my lethargy, weight gain, and adult acne (which I have learned can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism), were a result of personal choices and habits, and not because at a baseline, my body was not functioning properly.

The diagnosis isn't confirmed, but knowing this is what it could be has provided me so much relief in knowing I am on the right path to figuring it out. The likelihood is high, as my mom told me her and my father both have hypothyroidism as well.

I can't express how much my lack of health in some key areas has hurt me inside. This isn't about my mind and my habits entirely. It's about healing and helping my body better support me, and that is so relieving. 

There are days when I can't wake up without 9 or ten hours of sleep. I wake up knowing Erin is already working, and I am unable to even move out of bed. Some mornings I look in the mirror and see new zits on my face, and feel instantaneous shame. What am I doing to be this way? What is wrong with me?

I truly thought my lack of willpower was to blame. But it's not about my ego and what I can and can't do. My vessel is not functioning at its highest and full potential, and I am just so grateful that I have a sense of what I can do next to heal.

Mitch and I have been talking it through, and the tiny pill that I will likely have to take for life to help my thyroid function at its best, is not going to 'fix' everything, but it's going to be a start to get my baseline energy, and health to a place where I can do the self-work to build the better habits I need to keep living the life I dream of.

I wanted to share this to ask each of you to take your health seriously. Recently, women that I love have showed up for their health and are enduring, and healing because of being proactive. Love yourself enough to get whatever it is that may be lingering, or bothering you looked at. Make the appointment, get the prescription (or not), shift your diet, and give yourself a chance to feel better. 

We are ultimately responsible for taking care of our personal health and doing so will enable us to better serve the world around us alongside the ones that we love. Do your best, for you. 

You can't be what you can't see! ;-), thanks to Maggie for making this on my birthday, I do have that pink Power Ranger love for real and a desire to feel awesome once again.

You can't be what you can't see! ;-), thanks to Maggie for making this on my birthday, I do have that pink Power Ranger love for real and a desire to feel awesome once again.

Realizing it was within me all along...

It's 1:22 am, and I am a happy girl.

The past few nights have been riddled with tears, and fears, and anxiety about what's next. But tonight I feel proud of myself for doing what needed to be done to bring my dreams to life.

Tomorrow, Erin is looking at an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn for me that I know in my heart is the one. On December 14th, God willing, I will walk out of my appointment with the US Consulate with my Visa in hand. The next day I will apply for the American SIN number, open my US bank account, and apply for my first American credit card. Between now and then, I'll move my first load of things from Ottawa to NYC, and this move will officially be real with me living in Brooklyn in the New Year.

Woah.

IMG_7334.JPG

I've been making lists on Google Docs of move to-dos, and creating budget after budget on Sheets for months. I've been meticulously searching through PadMapper and Craigslist weekly looking for the perfect place to live. The first few months are going to be tight in the city, but it's all for good reason -- getting to NYC to work side-by-side with Erin in the final six-months before the launch of Dream, Girl, our greatest project to date.

Tonight I went through the thick, coiled, broken-down-by-section visa application that my law firm prepared for me. As I turned each page I realized how critical each step in this journey has been.

Starting contracting as a registered Sole Proprietorship in 2012 to... 

Section 1.
Becoming a Canadian Corporation a few months later with share certificates indicating my 100% ownership of my company, KoMedia Inc.

Section 2. 
Hiring the best accountant I know three years ago to guide me through my start-up years and to build out my financial statements for my first few years in business, and now setting us up for payroll.

Section 3.
Attending grad school at Waterloo my first year in business, giving me a post-grad diploma that enabled a deeper understanding and expertise.

Section 4. 
Working with Canadian clients who took me from Vancouver to India, and helped me learn so much about my craft, my talent, and my passions for social change.

Section 5.
Establishing meaningful contracts with Dream, Girl and others in the US that allow me to work the way I want to work, and to dream as big as I want to dream.

Section 6.
My latest resume that so nicely lists everything I deem 'noteworthy'.

As I closed the bound 'book' of an application, I felt elated. I did this. Everything listed here. I created. I am taking this risk of moving to NYC. I took that first risk of reaching out to Erin and listening to the pounding heart beat in my chest that told me Dream, Girl was meant to be my life. 

I did this.

I am the first to give thanks to those who have enabled me to get here, but tonight, I am going to pause and give praise to myself. I am making it through the tear-filled nights, and days filled with endless to-do lists and stresses, I am moving to the 'concrete jungle where dreams are made of' (thank you Alicia Keys). I am hopelessly romantic about the future of my companies, and the impact Erin and I will make on this big beautiful world.

If anything, I want this post to be a reminder for you, and to my future self, that regardless of how hard things may seem in this moment, how far-fetched that dream or idea may be, YOU are the only thing standing in your way.

Some nights I struggle to fall asleep because of the fear I feel with what's next. I own a home in Ottawa. I live with the love of my life and one of our best friends. I could stay here, and live a long, content, enriching life.

But I want more. I want to push myself to another level of curiosity, of determination, of grit. I want to keep pushing, every single day.

This is not easy. Every day I question what I've done, flippantly attributing it to the luck of the draw I've had in life. But in this moment I am willing to say, I didn't have to take this path. But I have actively chosen everyday of my life to work towards being better. To giving meaningfully to this world in a way that will drive me until the day I die.

My life is so insignificant when I realize the vastness of the universe, or even, the depth and length of human history. All I can do is try my best, and throw down every day. I am choosing love over fear, I am choosing to see myself instead of hiding from my own light.

I am doing this. And so can you.

Finding My Way Back To Physical Health: The Start-Up 15 and Readjusting

I am very much an open book when it comes to my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it feels like an avalanche, other times, the thoughts creep in and take hold in unexpected, subtle and unnoticed ways.

That's when I know it's time for a readjustment.

The past week has been intense to say the least. A national election in Canada with a party that truly represents my views taking leadership, coming back from Mill Valley, California where I was flown out and asked to speak as the only woman on an all-male panel, and finally, coming back to Ottawa and having a haze of confusion and lethargy take hold.

Hiking in Muir Woods outside of Mill Valley, California

Hiking in Muir Woods outside of Mill Valley, California

Normally, my work serves as my salvation. Whatever is going on, I can dive in and it helps uplift me. This time, I was struggling even getting started, or going into the office. I was also feeling like crap in my body. 

In the past year and a bit since Dream, Girl came into my life last August, I have gained about 15 pounds. Similar to the 'Freshman 15' I gained in first year university, this seems to be my 'Start-Up 15'.

When I first started KoMedia two years ago, my experience was actually the exact opposite. I had been fired from my previous job, started my company that very same day, and signed up for my first half-marathon not long thereafter. I started running, strength-training, and tracking my food. I knew I needed to shift some things in my life, and at the time, health was my number one priority.

That year, I also started grad school. It was an executive education-style program that was module-based. Every morning of all four week-long modules I would workout, lead a guided meditation, and then show up to class.

In contrast - last week, I spent two full days working from bed without leaving my house, yes, with a meditation sandwiched in between the coziness, but it had me asking, 'what's changed?', 'why am I not moving?'

With a few days of journaling, and going back to previous entries from that period of time in my life (which I wish there was more of), I realized I am afraid.

I am afraid of being seen as a successful, healthy, powerful woman. Isn't that funny? I spend most of my days spreading the good word and work of feminism, of 'empowerment', and here I am hiding in a shadow of my former self physically.

I was hiding behind a groin injury that took hold after we were rear-ended last summer that makes it hard for me to squat and deadlift. Two of my favourite exercises. I was afraid that yoga would aggravate it and instead of pivoting my workouts, and adjusting, I just stopped.

Cuddling my grandma in India.

Cuddling my grandma in India.

That mixed into a myriad of personal heaviness this year. From spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Intensive Care Unit with my mom after my uncle had part of his jaw removed to eliminate the cancer that had grown unnoticed for ten years, followed almost immediately by the death of her father, my grandfather, that had me going from Grande Prairie, Alberta to India back-to-back, I'd say diving into butter and rich food was a logical choice at the time.

I came back from India in March and we dived right into launching the Dream, Girl trailer on International Women's Day and the non-stop whirlwind of festivals, travel, and business growth that the last six months has held.

Maybe I'm being a bit too hard on myself. I'm not upset at myself for getting here. In fact, I think it's pretty logical. A shit-tonne of stuff happened this year, I just finally feel like I am in a state of mind to take my health back. I am 25, on the cusp of 26, and I want to feel like a weapon in my body.

I like to feel the strength of my muscles as I do pushups. Being upside down in a handstand feels more at home to me than anything else. Eating nourishing food is actually so delicious. I was just lost in the noise of change, and sprinting to keep up with my life.

15 pounds at the end of the day doesn't matter all that much, what matters to me is that I have been feeling sad. I was feeling like not enough. I was starting to feel like what I had to give to this world didn't matter as much because this physical body didn't look a certain way, and wasn't feeling good. I knew I had to shift something.

So on Sunday, Mitch and I got real with each other. I cried, we dove into our fears around health, we faced what would happen if we didn't start back on the path to nourishing our bodies, and we took action.

I signed back up for twice-weekly classes with the goddess of a woman, and one of the best yoga teachers in Ottawa, Louise Cameron. Last July, I trained with Louise for 30 days, 8-hours a day, to get my Forrest Yoga-inspired Hatha Yoga Teacher certification and it was life changing.

What a month it was! I felt so strong spiritually and emotionally.

What a month it was! I felt so strong spiritually and emotionally.

Louise really saw me. From day one I felt an instant connection to her. It was indescribable, and so powerful. Close to the end of our time together, she offered me a teaching position. I was floored. She saw power in my teaching and healing ability that I had never been aware of so deeply or viscerally. My life took another direction, and I still see her as a soul sister. There are few people in our lives who can see us with pure eyes, and she is one of them to me. 

Love you Louise (and happy anniversary to you and Gord today)!

So far this week I've had two practices with her, with another on the schedule for tomorrow, and I already feel the shift.

On Sunday, Mitch and I also sat down and took time to meal plan. 

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet Karena and Katrina from Tone It Up. I am a yuppie for strong online communities, and the first time I lost 20 pounds, I found Instagram to be a solid source of inspiration and community when it came to fitness. The Tone It Up community is insane online, and my friend Courtney McCarthy found amazing success through their program.

March 2014 - loving being upside down!

March 2014 - loving being upside down!

So, I ordered their Vegetarian Meal Plan, and Mitch and I dived in and planned our food for the week. We made our grocery list and hit Whole Foods. A couple hundred dollars, and some Spirulina, and Agave Syrup later, we were ready to prep.

We spent three hours cooking and packing our meals. From brazillian nut and dried fruit bars (that are so insanely delicious) to kale and red cabbage salad with this sweet, rich and savoury dressing, to evening chilli, and tonight, Thai peanut lettuce wraps with friends, it felt incredible to be so in control of what we were putting into our bodies. We also realized we're going to be saving a lot of money by cooking mostly at home.

It's only day three of recommitting to our health, but it feels like I am right back to the peak of my fitness. It feels so right, and so manageable. With the right supports, the right people, the right attitude, it's all fully achievable.

I also need to add that I'm about two months away from making that big move to NYC, and had I moved this month as was originally planned, I likely would have been a basket case. Without a good foundation of food, movement, and sleep, I know my tendencies towards depression and anxiety flare up. Add to that a move to the 'centre of the universe', and I would have been toast.

Staged shot - ha! Green tea, and my body journal is at home, so this is my work journal sitting in!

Staged shot - ha! Green tea, and my body journal is at home, so this is my work journal sitting in!

To be honest, I can't afford to not be in good, solid health. This recommitment won't be the last in my life, but this time I am being more mindful of how. I've added a second journal to my life - I call it my body journal. In it, I'm writing all the thoughts, feels, and emotions that come up related to my body, all the pain that I feel in different parts, and what's feeling good. I want this not only to help me today, but for future Komal who may need an in-depth reminder of my why and how when it comes to health.

All this to say. This is going to be interesting. Start-up 15 is not fun. It's a result of a gruelling and insane lifestyle that is somehow so deeply rewarding. I've realized I've got to get my health act together to be able to keep going in the direction of my dreams.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All I know is today, I'm not afraid to be seen (thank you Erin) and I am not afraid to share that I have some work to do.

Help me get there?

- K

The Only Woman on the Panel & Gender Equity In Cabinet: You Can't Be What You Can't See

This week so many things happened for me - this likely should have been 3 or more articles, but I kept it all together. From my heart to yours!

This past weekend, I was flown into Mill Valley, California, one of the most wealthy, and least diverse areas in the United States, to speak on a panel about the 'State of the Film Industry' and new innovative distribution methods. I was the only woman, I was the only person of colour, and I was the youngest by 25 years. This was huge for me.

Photo by Tommy Lau from the Mill Valley Film Festival 2015, 'State of the Industry Panel'.

Photo by Tommy Lau from the Mill Valley Film Festival 2015, 'State of the Industry Panel'.

As I researched the happenings of the rest of the festival, Roberto, my festival contact, e-mailed me the official ticketing page for our panel, and I was floored to see my name alongside industry heavy-hitters. Was this for real?

Panel day arrived, and I was nervous. I knew my fellow panellists had known each other for years, and I was coming in green. In the car-ride over and over lunch, I felt an underlying curiosity as to why I was there, and as the conversation unfolded, I felt myself ease. By the time we hit the stage, we had an awesome banter going. I was able to provide insights on crowdfunding (Dream, Girl is a Kickstarter funded film) and our plans for a multi-million dollar self-distribution launch.

We each built off of one another, and complimented each others thoughts. There was a true synergy, and it felt so great. 

Via @LoniStark on Twitter. Thanks Loni!

Via @LoniStark on Twitter. Thanks Loni!

Following the panel, I was approached by some audience members complimenting my confidence on stage, saying how refreshing it was to see me up there, and how much they learned from what I had to offer. I earned my right to be there, and I want more women to know that up on that stage, regardless of their sex and based on their merit, is where they belong. 

I looked at pictures on Twitter after and noticed how much I stood out. One of these things was not like the others... and it was awesome.

Once we wrapped, I snuck into the next room and sat in on the remainder of a panel with the filmmakers behind the film Suffragette for the festival's 'Mind the Gap' initiative for gender equality in the festival.

Sarah Gavron (director), Abi Morgan (screenwriter), and Alison Owen and Faye Ward (producers), were on stage to share their story of how this all-female team brought one of this year's Oscar front-running films to life. A film that showed the violence, struggle, and turmoil of the Suffragette movement. A film that showcases real, and complicated women. 

The energy in the room was markedly different from that of our panel. There were mostly women, and there was a sense of feverishness around why the industry was not yet inclusive of women in the way it ought to be. Audience members were asking questions about how to move the dial forward for gender equality, and mitigating sexual harassment in the industry. I wished my fellow panelists and our audience members were in this room.

We need these conversations to be heard by those who are in roles of decision making power and can champion for institutional change. If Suffragette and my studies have taught me anything, it's that catharsis only gets us so far, lobbying and forcing change in legislation, and the 'rules' that dictate our industries is the critical piece for cultural change.

After the panel, Sarah motioned me over to join a photo with the filmmakers. I was on top of the world. It's my dream to make a film of this magnitude and impact on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Dream, Girl and beyond. Having this photo will help me dream for years to come.

I can't be what I can't see.

Photo by Tommy Lau.

Photo by Tommy Lau.


Yesterday, I posted an article on my Facebook timeline that applauded our new Prime Minister's decision to have a cabinet that was 50/50 men and women. The highest positions in our government would for the first time in Canadian history, be equal men and equal women.

What a thought.

Immediately people posted about how these appointments should be made 'based on merit' and not based on gender. 

27% of the current Liberal caucus is women. That is 50/185 MPs. To assert that these women are under qualified for the highest leadership positions in our country undermines their years, and often decades of hard work that had them elected by the Canadian electorate.

There is an unconscious bias perpetually at play for women and visible minorities that prevent them from being a 'natural' choice for positions of power. But let me remind you of what will happen when these women take their rightful positions in a few weeks time:

  • Your daughters will have more role models in public office than ever before
  • Your sons will be less intimidated and threatened by strong women
  • There will be greater functionality within certain departments with the thoughtful, empathetic, holistic leadership that often comes with female leaders
  • Your country will be led excellently
  • We will be one of the most progressive governments in the world
  • You'll have the best men and women doing the job

Recently, I was nominated for the Governor General's Persons Award. I have been anxiously waiting for an e-mail update about the process and whether the nomination was successful. Last night, Mitch asked me to read him what the award represented. So I revisited the GG's site and read to him:

In 1929, after two years of legal debate, Canada’s highest court of appeal declared that the word “person” included both women and men. The decision was made by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain and made it possible for women to serve in the Senate. It also paved the way for women’s increased participation in public and political life. The case had been brought before the courts in 1927 by five Alberta women who became known as the “Famous Five.” The case became known as the Persons Case.

The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case were created in 1979 to mark the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Persons Case, which changed the course of history for women in Canada.
— http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/gg/about-ausujet-en.html

I cried as I read to him. After my years of work and study as a feminist, and after seeing Suffragette and the lengths to which women were abused in order to get the vote in the UK, and in the case of the Famous Five, to be seen as 'persons' legally and to take up political office in Canada, I was moved in every sense of the word. To receive this award in memory of these women's strength would be one of my greatest honours to date - here's hoping.

I went on to read more about the Famous Five women who made this happen:

On October 18, 1929, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision of the five lords:

”The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word “person” should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”

The Famous Five not only won the right for women to serve in the Senate but helped pave the way for women to participate equally in – and contribute equally to – all other aspects of life in Canada.
— http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/pd-jp/five-cinq-en.html

I stumbled over the date of the ruling... October 18th, 1929. I had a soul stirring moment of realization that Sunday, October 18th, 2015, the day I watched Suffragette at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and shed tears for the women represented on the screen, was 96 years to the date that women were legally able to take up political office in Canada. 

Wow.

The tears flowed.

The Famous Five women responsible for our right to take office in Canada. #power

The Famous Five women responsible for our right to take office in Canada. #power

It is important I sat on that panel. It is critical that our Canadian federal cabinet have equal gender representation, and it is even more important that we continue to champion for the change we want to see in our society. Less than 100 years ago women could not take office in this country. It is our right to take an equal amount of seats as men in our highest office. 

I would have not have been on that panel had our Executive Producer Bous de Jong not championed and shared my story with the founder of the Mill Valley Film Festival. Without our Prime Minister making the commitment to equal gender representation in our cabinet, we would not be boldly taking this next step into our progressive history.

Gender does not dictate merit. Our progress is determined only by our willingness to move forward together as a society, together as a connected people, and to take part in and bear witness to, the change required for true social transformation.


I urge you to consider seeing Suffragette this opening weekend. It is a film that transcends, and is so critical to our continued movement towards more inclusive, representative film and politics in this world.

Another Week, Another Lesson: Investing In Your Team

Erin and I have an amazing team of people working with us at KoMedia, and Dream, Girl. I remember the first day I put out the submission for intern applications for KoMedia last November, and how nervous and 'imposter-ey' I felt that night, but I stayed the course, and I am so beyond happy I did.

The first two women I interviewed blew me away. 

Diana is our passionate Calgarian with a fierce love for stories with soul, for feminism, and for learning the ropes even with no previous experience in a specific area. For example, we have her diving into CRM systems and revenue intake right now to build out our distribution/client inflow for screenings. This was not on the job description and is something she wasn't trained to know, but she's taking it on without hesitation and I LOVE that!

Last week on Friday, Erin and I had a call with Diana and we knew the time had come to ramp her up. We have so much work on the go, and need her attention 100%. She's also been craving the opportunity to make Dream, Girl her full-time work. So, after we hung up with her, we talked it through and called her back just as she was heading out on a hike for the long weekend.

"Diana, we want to bring you on full-time. Is that something you're interested in?..."

What proceeded was filled with tears, laughs, and a general sigh of expansion letting us know we had made the right call. There's so much upcoming with our global tour, and handling self-distribution, payment processing, and so much more with the film, and D is the one to do it.

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I knew from the moment she walked into my home office that day last December that this woman was going to be in my life for a long time, and I am so proud she is my first full-time employee. She is a woman to be watched, and a woman on fire, and I can't wait for you all to see her incredible work in action.

Next up is Kylie. 

Kylie came over today as I was packing for my weekend in Toronto and San Francisco. I meant to make it into the office and wasn't able to so asked her to come by to catch up.

The last time I saw Kylie in-person was a month ago. This is why I love Kylie. She's such a self starter, and that is critical when working with me. I generally have a lot on the go and appreciate working with people who can identify what needs to get done, stay on schedule with their deliverables, touch base consistently on work via e-mail, and who I get to touch base with in-person to ensure that personally they are growing in our journey together.

I could tell something was off today when she came in. Turns out she had an interview later in the day for a full-time position with an organization she wasn't over the moon about. In that moment I knew I had to throw down for her.

I racked my brain about how we could help her transition out of her current part-time work and find something more fulfilling and in-line with her passions as a freelancer and burgeoning writer.

I immediately made a few intros online to get her on the radar for some great part-time work with some bomb-ass ladies, and we built out her role with KoMedia/Dream, Girl to be more robust and to hopefully eventually lead to full-time work. This includes finishing up her work on our 20-part web series launching in a few weeks, and helping manage me and Erin as we dive into book writing, alongside creating a sellable PDF of best-practices for folks looking to start a Kickstarter.

She left glowing, and I rewrote a section of her resume for her just now to amp up the volume on this next phase of her life (note that she's looking for new writing clients right now: kylie@komedia.ca).

This is the shit that gets me going!

I love helping amplify the lives of the people around me, and in this case the people I'm working with.

Spending time together, taking time to really listen to their needs and then not holding back on making it happen - that's true service and presence in my book.

Kylie was working on transcribing some content from an interview I gave for the film for us a week ago and sent the following e-mail that just made my heart smile, and helped me remember that what we are doing is right and good:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 6.06.27 PM.png

A big part of being a founder is being a solid early manager. We've absolutely had our missteps, but what I hope is consistent throughout is that each person we work with feels uplifted in some way by our work together, and that they feel like they've been heard.

A couple months ago, I spoke to Diana and had a sense that something was off. Instead of avoiding, we dove right in.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 6.52.34 PM.png

She wasn't feeling great working from home. It was so insular, and so isolated and considering she was already working remotely from us, something needed to change.

That day, I wrote one of the women who invested in the film, and who has been an angel for us since day one. I asked if she had an extra cubicle in her office that Diana could hotdesk on a few times a week, and she came back to me offering Diana her own cubicle and keys to the office.

You never know if you don't ask.

So today I wanted to write this both in reflection of the shift in my energy of bringing people on board, from feeling 100% like an imposter to feeling more and more in control and powerful each day. I also wanted to write it to everyone on our team, today I spoke about Kylie and Diana, but we honour and cherish each of you and are so beyond grateful for the contributions you continue to make everyday to our mission and this cause.

As a managing team, Erin and I know we're only as good as those we're surrounded by, and the calibre and quality of our team puts warmth in our hearts and power into our mission. Take the time to care for your team and the investment will come back tenfold, I promise. 

Why I Vote: Politics & Legacy

When I was a young girl, I sat shyly at the top of our winding staircase at home, looking over into our living room in Grande Prairie, Alberta. A man of great stature and with kind eyes was sitting on the couch in our living room with my dad and uncle. It was late, and I thought it was so amazing he was in our house.

This man was Paul Martin, then on tour campaigning to become the Prime Minister of Canada in 2003. And there he was in our living room.

I don't know exactly why writing this piece is causing me to cry, but I have a deeply rooted sense of responsibility to share with you why my vote means so much to me as a 25-year-old first-generation Canadian.

My dad came to Canada in July 1974. The day after he arrived, he started working for the Proctor and Gamble pulp mill just outside of Grande Prairie. He lived with my uncle, and a number of others. His coworkers often complained that on his lunch break he wouldn't mingle with them because he was too busy singing Bollywood songs at the top of his lungs in his buncher.

My mother came to Canada after having an arranged marriage with my dad. A few years after getting to Canada, my dad and uncle tasked her with running East Side Grocery and Liquor, our convenience store that they bought after years of running their own logging trucks. My mom had no experience in business, and had never done a deposit at the bank before for a store. But she figured it out day by day.

Everyday since, they have instilled in me a passion for life, a commitment to hard work, and a pride in being Canadian. 

My dad and uncle came to Canada because of the Multiculturalism Act created by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and they stay committed to the party even though we live in the Conservative heart of the country. So much so that we've hosted Prime Ministers and high-level politicians throughout the years, giving me a connection to politics I am so beyond grateful for.

As a kid, I would ride in my dad's truck as we would pick people up from work and take them to the polling stations and back again. I was asked to leave a polling station when I was in middle-school because I was wearing a shirt in support of my Liberal candidate, and this was way before I could even vote! I also visited local farmers and heard their concerns as a youth reporter with Sheila Copps when she made her bid for Liberal Party Leader many years ago.

I'm Liberal because the core values of the party are what raised me. I am a Liberal because without the actions of this party, I would not be here acting with the independence and freedom afforded to me by being born in Canada, and having the freedoms we've been afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A few months ago, I was grateful to organize a meeting for my parents to meet Liberal Party Leader, Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. They were visiting for my birthday, and it was a gift I could give to them for everything they've given me in my life. It was one of my proudest moments. Seeing my dad's face after we left, and having him look at me with pride that he was able to share with the potential future Prime Minister of Canada and Pierre Elliot Trudeau's son, his concerns about soft-wood lumber, and the foreign-workers program meant the world. In that moment I was showered in my Canadian pride.

Being Canadian has made me who I am today.

When I realized this week that Bill C-24 puts my citizenship at risk if the current government felt affronted by my activism or voice, I was floored.

Is this the Canada I believe in? Is this the Canada that has made me a proud, successful business woman and feminist? Is this the Canada that I want to represent as I travel this world with the intention and mission for change?

No.

I vote because I am fighting for the land I love. I vote because this is the system we have, and can improve together.

I vote because I refuse to give up on what it means to me to be Canadian, something that the Harper government has steered us far from.

For me this means being a country that stands for human rights and women's rights abroad, a country that is a source of light, inspiration, and opportunity to millions around the world, and that has a protected and strong economy. A country that when its name is mentioned globally, it brings comments of love, of awe, and admiration. One that does not buy into the fears inherent in difference, but chooses to be united.

I want to hear and reconcile the stories of the missing and murdered aboriginal women of this country. I want to know that everyone in our nation has access to clean water. I want to be proud of our extraction industry for it's environmental record, and I want to know I can make millions through business and support our collective economy with pride. I want to know I am respected and seen as equally 'Canadian' as each of you reading this.

Our differences and diversity unite us. We are the most diverse country in the world. That is amazing. Don't fear it. I am here in front of you to remind you what it looks like to be a proud multicultural Canadian.

I come from a family of immigrants. Collectively we have invested, created, and will continue to create many millions of dollars of growth for our economy. Not with a chip on our shoulders, but with pride for this nation and what it's given us, the opportunities it's afforded us, and what we have given back to it.

Don't forget that this nation is built on the backs of immigrants, and that those indigenous to this nation are really the only ones with true claim of 'home'.

Music is a powerful tool. Yesterday, I came across this song, 'Land You Love' by Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde. It's etched in my soul. It moves me to remember why I am going to vote, and why I hope you will too.

I don't care if you're Liberal, NDP, Conservative, or an Anarchist. All that I ask is that you use the agency afforded you to vote, and be heard. Remember, or find a reason to be compelled to vote.

This matters. Millions around the world do not have this right. We do. Cherish it.

To find out where to go to vote, visit www.electionscanada.ca, and to make your pledge to vote with Rick Mercer visit www.votenation.ca.

I'll be voting this Friday at the advance voting station, I hope I'll see you there.

 

My Talk on Selfless Service at Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Today I gave a speech to launch the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It was a great honour to do so being a first-generation Canadian and it was very humbling to have been thought of for this opportunity. Thank you Thiago and Sabrina for making it happen! 

Thank you Deputy Minister Anita Biguzs, Director General Catrina Tapley and the CIC GCWCC organizing committee for inviting me to speak here today.

Knowing I had an opportunity to share part of my story with you all had me in a very reflective mood this weekend. What could I say to a very well educated, committed, high-functioning group of public servants that would resonate and enable a positive dialogue around service and giving, and how could I help enable you all to best serve during the time of this campaign and beyond?

What do I have to offer you all to help you move forward in a meaningful way for our community today? All I have is my story and lived experiences, and so today I offer them to you in hopes that you will find something useful.

Seva.

This is the word for selfless service in Sanskrit, and in my native tongue of Punjabi. It is also a mantra that is embedded in the core of my life. We are here to serve without ego, and without expectation. We are here to serve to uplift humanity in whatever small or large way we can.

Growing up my parents never made a big deal out of giving back. It was part of our daily experience. From having cousins and family friends move into and out of our home as they immigrated to Canada, to having countless folks over for dinner every night, to driving around on election day in Grande Prairie, Alberta with my dad picking people up from work and taking them to the polling stations, service was embedded in my culture and my daily family life.

They also taught me how to have fun!

They also taught me how to have fun!

I was and continue to be in awe of my mother’s resilience, and ability to show up for others. When anything went down in our community, she was the first to be called to help. The most humbling of which was last year after a young man in our community, Baljit, took his own life, and my mom was called in to help his parents and plan his funeral service for the community.

There was not a moment of hesitation in her reaction. She entered the situation in the only way she knew how - to help, to listen, and to serve. I would call her each night, and hear the exhaustion in her voice, but she would not complain. She knew the gravity of the situation and knowing that she was able to help, fuelled her everyday.

Coming from a home like this, service became a foundational element of my life, and it is the biggest reason why I became an entrepreneur.

A few months following the Baljit’s funeral, I made a trip back home and visited his mother. She asked me that day to help bring awareness to the experiences of depression, addiction, and suicide in an effort to prevent others from taking their lives. I looked into her eyes and knew she and Baljit were now embedded in my soul. I could not undo our bond, and I would work in whatever way I could, big or small, to share their story to uplift and to help enable change.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so today.

The Parents Lifelines of Eastern Ontario has helped countless parents to bring their children back from the edge. As a United Way partner, their work is directly affected by your campaign and giving.

In honour of Baljit Singh Flora. A kind, loving, gentle spirit. Until we meet again Baljit.

If Baljit and his mother had the support they needed both as new immigrants, and victims of an abusive addict, Baljit’s fate could have shifted. Sadly, his story cannot change, but we can work together to help change the lives of so many other youth burdened by the weight of their lives.

This is the kind of change you are helping to make in our community. This is what you are contributing to throughout this campaign. This is why it matters. Whether it is your time, or your dollars, you are making a meaningful difference in ways you can’t imagine.

I read the stories on the GCWCC website of your colleagues who have given back to their communities as a result of their personal experiences with disability, aboriginal issues, early pregnancy, and more. I was so inspired to see how deeply personal these experiences were, and how powerful your colleagues’ responses were.

Often when giving becomes institutionalized, it loses its heart.

But heart is what we need to make the greatest impact in this world. It’s what helps us to truly change the lives of the people around us, and others if we so choose.

My partner Mitch works in the public service, when I told him I was speaking here today he urged me to speak to the importance of giving time in this campaign.

For millennials, simply giving money does not satisfy. Giving our time, energy, and skills is what helps us feel connected to our communities and to ourselves.

So do that.

If you are encumbered by giving only dollars, make an effort with your colleagues or on your own to engage face-to-face. To see the community this campaign is giving to.

That’s what has continued to change my life.

One of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced the past few years was when I was sitting in the South of India with a group of women who asked me to sing them a song in Hindi. This was a group of women who received loans from a micro-financing effort enabled by Coca-Cola Global, and I was there as a storyteller sharing their stories with the world.

I started off quietly… Orja Kalay Kaawan Theray Moo Wich Khand Paavan…

One by one they joined in. Suddenly one of the women had a drum, before we knew it the whole room was dancing. In that moment I was so happy and so moved. I started crying while we were dancing.

Leanette dancing up a storm after the ladies got going!

Leanette dancing up a storm after the ladies got going!

I had spent that week seeing extreme poverty in my motherland. I saw firsthand the experiences of women of my own culture who were being held down by our patriarchal culture, but in this moment we were free together. Their collective resilience, and power was so moving. When I get down about my daily work, or about the stories of the women we are engaging with each day, I think of that day, and it reminds me of the power of showing up, of serving, and of listening.

I know it’s my sole mission in life to help improve the lives of women and girls globally. I am producing a film right now called Dream, Girl, that showcases the inspiring and powerful stories of female CEOs and entrepreneurs to inspire this next generation of female leaders. We know the names of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, but who are the female founders, what do their lives look like?

One thing I’ve learned for certain is that we can’t be what we can’t see.

Last night Viola Davis won an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. She was the first woman of colour to win.

She said, ‘The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

That’s my why. I want to increase the roles, representation, and opportunities for women in the media. I know we are on the cusp of great change for diverse, real, complicated women in traditional media, and across the world in all sectors, and I want to be a driving force in that change.

But it happens not all at once, but one moment at a time, once act of selfless service at a time, and one year at a time.

Know that your being here, in Canada, in a capacity to raise tens of millions of dollars as a collective for our national community is worth it. You are playing a role everyday in making small and large impacts on the lives of many.

That is no small feat. You all inspire me, and I hope together we can keep working, within this campaign and in our daily work, to selflessly serve in an effort to change not only the lives of others, but our own along the way.

Thank you.