A Winding Road
Co-Chair of WLI Toronto and Principal of BEL+RIT urbanism
As a private individual who does not seek the spotlight, being open in a public forum with this blog is a first for me, however, I hope helpful and relatable to a broad audience.
We all have a journey, a story, a path – sometimes linear but most often not. Words such as ‘organic’, ‘spiral’, and ‘circumstance’ come to mind when I think of my journey and the winding road that has led me to a place where professional and personal purposes are merging. Looking back, three themes resonate with me in the path that led me to where I am today.
One – Setting the Stage
Our early influences set the stage but are often not realized except in retrospect. Mine started at the very young age of four, working alongside my father in his real estate practice. I wanted nothing else than to follow him everywhere and when the opportunity to hop on for a work day presented itself, I was right on board. I was his sidekick, loving every site visit and taking in the City along the way (the different neighbourhoods; witnessing social and economic diversities; watching new developments pop up; and learning about property values). I was rewarded financially for helping with filing and property searches — thrilled to spend my hard-earned nickels and dimes on treats at the local convenience store. It was the start of my curiosity and love of cities and real estate. Over the years, what seemed to be part of my DNA, morphed into an academic and professional path, garnering industry breadth and depth in experience and credentials.
Two – Life Happens
To quote John Lennon, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
Amongst years of personal and professional accomplishments, there has also been the reality of unexpected circumstances (some joyful, some terrifying) that dictated times to pause and other times to pivot. My spouse and I each simultaneously faced a number of job layoffs at the peak of a deep recession in our early career years, the first of which happened two weeks after signing our first mortgage. We experienced years of struggling with family planning and thinking children would probably not be in the cards so we started other plans and each shifted career paths, both with significant drops in income, to then discover the blessing of expecting twins. We each survived cancer, diagnosed a month apart when our children were 12 years of age. These are just a few of the many challenges/adventures we conquered together — we bring new meaning to the term “soulmates”!
In my retrospective lens, I now see the clarity of a blurred 20 or so-year period – a period of staying focused on survival, both figuratively and literally. Too often plans, goals, and interests were put on hold, but my “aha” moment was in recognizing that I can do everything I set out to do, just not all at the same time – a mindset that has enabled resilience, patience, and being in the moment with each experience.
My story is likely not much different than anyone else’s in that we all have our challenges and winding roads. I have come to value that firstly, challenges can lead to positive outcomes and drive our sense of purpose, and that secondly, with a winding road comes slow knowledge where each experience is a step in the upward climb towards achieving wholeness, authenticity, and wisdom.
Three – Next
While some refer to their next chapter, next act, or next phase, I see a fluid narrative of “nexts” and what each next encounter, experience, interest, adventure, or circumstance brings. So what’s next? Where am I currently, personally and professionally, in my story and path?
I recently launched BEL+RIT urbanism , a land and urban economics advisory practice supporting real estate and city-building organizations in creating value and impact. While it is a professional practice, the core of the brand is the expression of my whole self – metaphorically the sum of all my parts within a circular path of continuous learning and growth – all my past and future “nexts”. As I evolve from career to purpose with intention, BEL+RIT urbanism provides the platform to harness my breadth and depth of knowledge through various services and capacities, one of which includes industry leadership and impact.
Over the last three years, I have immersed myself in diverse leadership roles within various industry organizations. While the original intent was to expand my contributions and “give back”, the benefits have exponentially surpassed what I originally set out to accomplish. I have discovered an extended community and friendships linked in like-minded purposes. In my current role as a WLI Toronto Co-Chair, I am continually humbled by the powerhouse of changemakers with which I am beyond privileged to work alongside. To say it has been gratifying would be an understatement. On a personal and professional level, I am being propelled to achieve and apply myself at a time when some would consider slowing down. More significantly, on a collective level, our contributions are making waves within the industry and community. I am incredibly thankful for this experience and the point in time it has crossed my path – a time when I am ready to merge personal and professional intention, share wisdom, help set the stage for those at the beginning of their journey, influence, advise, and rise up.
It is liberating to be in a place of discovery where I continue to grow with new challenges while also taking on those that I did not seek during my earlier career years. For me, embracing the notion that one can do everything in life, just not all at the same time has been fundamental in providing a growth mindset and an appreciation for all the magnificence of a winding road.