Sponsored Tingles: Realize your Potential
I was recently very flattered to have been approached by American Express Canada to be part of their ‘Realize The Potential’ campaign that celebrates a growing segment of our population called Potentialists.
Who are the Potentialists? They are all around us. They are often ambitious people who are rethinking what life is all about and are finding ways to enrich their lives through meaningful experiences. For some it’s about the challenge of learning new skills or exploring new places as ways of expanding their lives. For others it's about unleashing their creative side, or connecting with the world around them through getting behind a cause.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring stories that highlight and celebrate Potentialists. Some will be from the world of celebrity, including philanthropists, hobbyists, and others, and some from you, our readers. I’m hoping you’ll share.
To kick things off, I’ve been asked to talk about my experience. This is not to say that I am all those things described above. Hell no. I am, after all, a gossip. So I’m quite humbled, flattered, and frankly a little embarrassed to have been asked to talk about myself on my own blog. For those of you who are already familiar with the story, please forgive. And for those of you who are new to the site, hopefully my smutty origins may be of some interest.
My Squawking Chicken Mother had been living with kidney failure for years. Every day for years, she’d go to the hospital for haemodialysis which means that they would run all her blood through a machine to clean it and then run all the blood back in. Took around 3 hours. It was a limiting life, and she was on the list for a new kidney through the donation program.
One night, in the middle of the night, the phone rang. It was 1am. There was an organ, a perfect match organ. She had 10 minutes to decide whether or not she wanted it. Within 6 hours she was in surgery. Just 6 hours after that she had a new functioning kidney. I flew home the next day to be with her, for six LONG EXCRUCIATING days, to care for her. I say it this way because the kidney started working immediately. And that only meant that she got louder and more demanding, and would send me out on wild goose chases for whatever new food items she was craving. Mother had heard that the victim was a young Canadian girl. All of a sudden, having never eaten pizza in her life, she was now convinced that “my baby wants pizza”, holding the side of her body, pointing to the kidney she’d inherited.
Still, recovery would be a while. And so I made the difficult decision to leave my job, move back to Toronto for a few months, and look after her. Deciding to leave felt right. It was a decision I did not take lightly. But I’m one of those people, I see signs everywhere, and if you’ve been reading my column long enough, you probably already know I’m also very, very superstitious. I get this from the Squawking Chicken. This was very much a sign. But I will always remember what a number of people said to me when I resigned from my job at the time: “you will regret this, you won’t find anything else like this”. And indeed I was afraid. But I wanted to go home to see my mother through this transplant, and I wanted, at 29, to see if I could answer the question: what else?
During this time I started writing every day via email to two friends who I’d left behind at the office. About the day’s celebrity news, about my own observations, and after a while, they forwarded my messages on to their friends, and those friends sent it on to their friends. And the newsletter grew, from 2 to 10 to 300 to thousands.
Six months later my ma was thriving, I was hired by Covenant House Vancouver, and was promptly transformed. Every day I went to work working for street kids, at-risk youth who’d been abandoned by their families, by their friends, by their communities, and surrounded by a team of the most committed and dedicated and kind people I’d ever met who would eventually become my lifelong friends. I also had the honour of meeting these kids, some broken by circumstance, and still others who kept fighting and surviving, even though almost everyone had written them off. Covenant House gave me perspective and appreciation and – I hope – compassion for a reality that I had fortunately not experienced myself.
By this time, my little newsletter was reaching more and more people. I would be at Covenant House all day, and then I’d go home and write it for several hours, and send it out at night, and pretty soon, there were so many recipients on the list it crashed my mail server. A friend of ours had just started building websites. He offered to make me a blog, which was this new thing that was juuuuust in its infancy. I was like, sure, let’s do it. And we softly launched that at the beginning of 2005. I’d been doing the newsletter for over 2 years.
Being online opened up a new audience, a wider one. Five months after we went live, etalk called and invited me in for a meeting. They wanted to start dating on a trial basis. Six months after that we decided we were in for a long term relationship. And that relationship is still intact now, has resulted in my covering TIFF, Cannes, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and more.
For a year I juggled all of it – blogging, Covenant House, etalk. And I still believe that if there were 40 hours in a day, I would still be doing the same. But eventually I needed to make a decision. LaineyGossip could become a career. And I really wanted to pursue it. I wanted to blog all day every day. I wanted to see if I could be better, maybe even good, and I really wanted to know what would happen if I took something that was mine from the beginning and grew it.
They nearly pushed me out the door at Covenant House. This is who they are. They wanted it for me too. And we promised each other that I could give back in other ways – by volunteering, by donating, by assisting with campaigns, by building awareness.
Meanwhile, thanks to your continued support, LaineyGossip is still around and I still love doing this every day. I still have more plans for the site, I still have goals that I’m too afraid to say out loud that involve writing more and differently, but most importantly, I still cannot tell you how much I appreciate that reading gossip on this blog is a part of your day. I have always intended it to be a conversation, sometimes even an argument, and hopefully, in some ways, more than just a place for you to come to read about who cheated on her husband with his best friend, got pregnant, and gave the baby up for adoption (true story).
So while I’m not all that comfortable with the recognition of being a Potentialist, if I am one, to all of you, please accept my love and gratitude for making that possible.
And now it’s your turn.
What’s your story? Share with us why you are a Potentialist. Email me at [email protected] with AMEX Potentialist as the title. Each week we’ll be posting a new Potentialist story and I’d love to hear from you and share it with everyone else. The theme next week is travel – someone who reaches their potential through global adventure.
Visit the American Express Realize the Potential page to see how the company is encouraging Canadians to realize their full potential. Or to learn more about Amex Canada, check out their site: www.americanexpress.ca