29 Years - 3 Lessons (Part 1)

Joel’s Journal - January 19, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #19 

On Living

Keeping my head up from day one. 

Keeping my head up from day one. 

Two years ago, I started doing things that I really wanted to do. 

It was my 27th birthday, and the only thing I wanted to do was hold a bird in my hand. I didn’t need anything (well, books are always nice), but when I really looked deep down, the only thing I wanted to do was feed some birds, and I knew the place I could do it. 

It was the middle of January 2016, and I was in Oshawa. The place I knew I would have the best chance of finding a feathered friend was outside of Brantford. It would probably be a two-hour drive (at least), depending on how GTA traffic treated me. 

I thought it was a little silly. It was a far way to drive to hike into the woods in the middle of the winter. Yet, there was a part of me that was determined to do it. 

It was in the months ahead of my 27th birthday that I started to make some changes in my life. Things hadn’t been going exactly as I’d hoped, I was spending too many nights alone, locked inside my head, thinking about what ifs. I knew I needed to change, and I vowed to do it. 

So, that early determination to make the drive to deliver something that I knew I would love, was the first test of this new lifestyle of saying fuck what has happened and fuck those negative thoughts and start trusting the thoughts that I had been ignoring for too long. Those thoughts were the ones trying to put me first, but were being drowned out. 

I made the drive. I hiked into the freezing woods. I didn’t bring any bird seed. 

I realized it when I was already in the forest, and didn’t bother turning back. My feet crunched through the snow of the boardwalk, and I scooped some seeds, left behind by someone else, from the fluffy snow at my feet. 

The bird came almost immediately. There was only one, and he inspected the sad few seeds I had in my hand. He stuck around for a bit, hopping from one finger to the other, trying to get a better view of the few seeds I had in my palm. 

A wide smile was growing on my face as the bird beaked through a few smaller seeds to reach the large black sunflower seed buried beneath. It was definitely the one he wanted. He fluttered off. 

I smiled into the trees, then headed back to my car. 

I’d say that was the moment things really started to change for me. 

That was two years ago. Today, January 19, I turned 29 years old. 

Now, as I start the journey through the last 365 days of my 20s, I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned on my path to this point. In this first of three parts, I want to tell you about one of the most important things I’ve learned in my young life. I want to tell you about chasing goals, and how to do it. 


In my mind, there’s a bit of a dichotomy that exists in my mindset when it comes to living and chasing what you want, two things that go hand in hand. There’s an unrelenting confidence that continues to flow through my brain, telling me it’s not a matter of if I succeed, but only a matter of when. This part of my brain doesn’t give a shit about what others have to say, and is constantly injecting steel into my spine when thoughts of doubt start to creep in. At times, he falls asleep at the switch, but for the most part, he’s able to keep me going. 

I think my logical mind has just realized it’s the only way to move forward. What’s the alternative? 

Negative thoughts and worry? Sitting back and allowing things to move along without you?

No thanks.

The other part of my brain is more turned outwards. This is the part that reminds me that while it’s important to go after what I want with an unrelenting determination, it must be done with compassion, and a thought for other people. 

It’s when these two modes of thought come together that I think I (and really anyone) can find real success. 

For the most part, I think there’s a lot of factors that crafted this way of thinking inside my head, a kind of byproduct of a million different decisions and experiences. However, I have some theories.

I’ve been told that I was a pretty happy baby. The happiest when I was eating. 

That general demeanour for looking on the bright side has carried over into my older years. Of course, there are days when things seem dark and happiness is like a distant memory from some long ago vacation, but for the most part, I think I’m a pretty cheerful dude. 

And I think when we’re happiest, our minds are the most open, allowing room for all those good brain activities to take place, those being imagination, curiosity, and confident thoughts. 

It’s this general happy demeanour, I think, that has bred a lot of compassion, and caring deeply about others’ situations. 

It’s why today I try and aim my reporting and journalism toward stories that can actually make a difference. It’s tough, but telling the stories of people who have nowhere else to share, and nowhere else to turn, can make a difference. 


These compatible ways of thinking are not only essential, but they make it a lot easier to face the craziness and speediness of life. 

I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned in 29 years is that no matter what happens in your life, things are constantly rushing forward, whether you like it or not. 

Things are ever-changing. As Brooks Hatlen says, “the world went and got itself into a big damn hurry.”

I picture life like a charging bull, and you’ve got two options. You can either stand there with the red sheet and hope that each time it locks in on you, you can get out of the way in time. Or, you can hop on top, and as the saying goes, grab that sumbitch by the horns. 

I’ve had a hold of those horns for a couple years now, and while I’m not the best at steering it just yet, I think I’m getting a little better. 

I’ve also learned I like speaking in metaphors. 

So, Joel’s lessons on living, be happy, chase what you want, ignore the haters, and most importantly, give a shit about other people. 

Thanks for reading everyone! Tomorrow, Part 2 - On the Important Things.


Joel Wittnebel