On Turning 45

I was pondering a long “Now that I am 45” birthday blog post full of impressive revelations, but I’ve decided instead to share and expand upon a popular Facebook update that I wrote this morning without even thinking about it…

For my birthday breakfast I asked Julie Kingstone to make me bacon, oatmeal with blueberries and strawberries, and a coffee, and that’s what I got. The best part of this is that pretty much describes my breakfast every day! So, at 45, my words of wisdom are:

“Sometimes the most special things in life are the people, places, and routines that you enjoy every day.”

To expand on that, I was very saddened by a story related to me by a colleague earlier this month. They had been talking to a friend about something fun that happened at the LiveWorkPlay office, and the friend replied “Wow, that’s amazing, I pretty much try to avoid having any interaction with my co-workers!”

birthdayIf that’s the type of thing you might hear yourself saying, I highly recommend that you re-examine this approach. Whatever the circumstances, there must be some small steps that could be taken to make that environment more enjoyable (beyond the snacks you eat or the breaks you take). Think about it and maybe risk a “Hello.” Nothing horrible will happen, and maybe a few weeks from now you’ll be laughing about “You won’t believe what Joe said today!”

For full-time workers, it’s a big chunk of your life to write off as nothing but a source of a paycheque. While I too get excited for my evenings and weekends, I think the perspective that the workplace is something to suffer through until you can do other things becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (and a depressingly gloomy outlook).

Before LiveWorkPlay became a job (a great job, no doubt, but don’t be deceived – anyone who works in human services deals with immense stress and needs to actively address issues that can lead to burnout) I worked at an information technology company. The work (such as writing unsophisticated code) was not always interesting or inspiring. Frankly, I don’t remember most of the work I did there, not even outcomes I was quite proud of at the time. What I remember is flashes of gut-busting laughter from co-workers, or particular moments when I needed – or offered – some understanding and kindness.

What I’m saying here about the workplace is something I’d extend to life in general. Learn to appreciate and care about your proximal environment – people, places, and things.

A lot of our cultural expectations seem to focus “happiness” on “the next big thing.” But that perspective virtually guarantees that the daily joys of life (including the people you share it with) will be under-appreciated.

So, if you find yourself lamenting your current situation, be it personal or professional, it’s great to have plans and take action to change things. But I think an often overlooked opportunity for improving how we feel about ourselves and our situation is to consider what actions we could take right now, to make things just a little bit better. Research shows that one of the easiest ways to do this is to do something nice for someone else. And it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture – in fact, one of my favorite birthday gifts was the lovably goofy collage (above) I received at work!

Thanks to everyone – including those I am not in touch with so much these days – who helped me get to 45 and learn how to better enjoy life.

About Keenan Wellar

Keenan is a citizen of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) and co-leader of a social change and community benefit organization, LiveWorkPlay.ca, a registered charity which helps the community welcome and include people with intellectual disabilities, autistic persons, and individuals with a dual diagnosis to live, work, and play as valued citizens. LiveWorkPlay was named Ottawa's Best Non-Profit of 2019 by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal "Best Ottawa Business Awards " With Julie Kingstone, Keenan is co-owner of Wellstone Leadership Services, dedicated to supporting a culture of excellence for non-profit, private sector, government organizations, collaborations, and partnerships. Keenan is a founding member of the leadership group for the From Presence To Citizenship collaborative. Keenan is a regular guest (monthly) of the News 1310 Power Lunch radio show, and he writes the monthly NPQ North column for Nonprofit Quarterly. When not working and supporting various social causes, Keenan loves kayaking and wildlife photography, cheering for the Ottawa RedBlacks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and causing a disturbance on social media.
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2 Responses to On Turning 45

  1. Aaron says:

    Great post, Keenan. We have a lot of “Wow, really, I am getting paid to this?” moments in what we are doing these days, but we’ve created the environments and opportunities for those moments. I tell people who work in our field – if you’re not feeling the joy where you are, there are always options – making things incrementally better is one; finding a place that welcomes and celebrates your passions is another. Happy Birthday!


    • Thanks Aaron! You are quite right. While I would like to think everyone can find paid work that they are highly passionate about, I recognize for a variety of reasons this many not be possible or that there might be very difficult barriers involved. In those situations, I think it’s worth a try to think about how to make a less than ideal choice more enjoyable. One thing is for sure, if you feel “stuck” and the only choice you make is to complain and be miserable, then you’ll definitely see your choice realized!


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