Things I Learned in My Twenties | 1. Courage to Enter the Arena

Image Credit: Sasha Freemind via Unsplash.

Written by H. WEND, May 26th, 2023.

What I like about age is that, though it is just a number— a measurement of our physical existence— it is a marker for important events in the timeline of our lives, the number that organises our memories and moments — the precious, mundane, shattering, and more — into years of our lives. Age may mean nothing to you, and that is bliss in itself, but I’ve had a small fixation on age lately, and I’m working it out.

I am turning 30 in about six weeks and I’m doing some reflecting. The thing I’m realising is that my fixation isn’t really about age itself; it’s about my mother— that each year I become an older, slightly different version of myself, and she’s not here to witness it or be a part of my life. She will not know 30-year-old me or walk me through my thirties and the experiences I will have in those years, and that is something that knocks me off my feet.

If grief has taught me anything, it’s taught me that we aren’t promised anything—not tomorrow, not even my thirties. Each day that we get to experience this wonderful, brutal life, to write another story, and to be able to hold the ones we love close to us is a gift (and that doesn’t mean ‘make the most of it’ the way everyone annoyingly tells us to). These days, I am starting with appreciation— I am trying to live with gratitude rather than give up because of the pain of deep loss. I know my mother would be here if she had the choice. I know she would want me to wake up and use my agency to choose a life that is not without pain, but one that is whole— pain, joy, and all of the things— one that is mine.

So, I’ve been reflecting and taking inventory of my life thus far, and I’ve realised that my twenties have been kind of profound, mostly because, well, nothing changes your life like loss and grief. This past decade has changed my life in many ways, and there are things I will carry with me forever.

So, unsurprisingly, I thought I’d write about it— the most meaningful things I’ve learned in my twenties. I will share them over the next few weeks as the decade of my twenties comes to a close. They’re mostly for my own reference, so I can one day look back and see what was happening and what I was learning.

1. Courage to Enter the Arena

I recently created a collection to share my favourite quotes, and I posted a passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, which he delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. The passage is called ‘The Man in the Arena.’

As someone who has stood frozen in ‘the arena’ because of fear of failure and fear of judgement, this passage is an incredibly powerful reminder that my life is mine just as yours is yours. It is a reminder that the arena is personal— the arena we find ourselves in can appear as both big and small challenges, and everyday occurrences that put us at the forefront. It is a reminder that failure isn’t the worst thing that could happen— it’s kind of guaranteed and necessary. Life is messy and full of challenges, they are ours to own and overcome. The passage is a reminder to have the courage to wend and weave my own path, to own it, embrace vulnerability, and be seen as a whole— unapologetically and honestly so.

This is definitely a recent concept I am learning. It is in progress, no doubt. For me, it hasn’t been easy to find my own footing and to decide whose voice matters. I have held a core belief about myself since I was a little girl— that I am not enough and that my story doesn’t matter. It’s someone else’s voice telling me what and who I am— based on their expectations. I missed opportunities and let fear steal my joy. Whether I was eight-years-old and terrified to ask questions and make mistakes, nineteen-years-old and feeling shame because I struggled with depression, or grieving at twenty-five-years-old and telling myself that I wasn’t good enough of a daughter— the critics always won because I was always listening, as if my arena was theirs to dominate. It will likely take a lifetime to disarm and banish the core belief I’ve held for so long. I know the things associated with that belief are not true but I also know that the critics can take many forms and pretend to be harmless while infiltrating and distorting our minds. I know now that no one can write or tell our stories like we, ourselves, can.

That old core belief may still linger but it will no longer be disguised as my inner voice. No longer will I give importance to the judgement of those who are not invested in my story, specifically the loud and determined voices coming from the cheap seats.

I’m grateful that life is always offering growth if we are willing to be in the arena. I’m grateful to know that our stories can change and evolve in beautiful ways regardless of the critics who watch on.

It was through one of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, that I learned about the passage by Theodore Roosevelt. I also could not resonate more with a passage from her own work:

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage. A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Brené Brown

If I could sit down and tell my mother everything— share what I am learning— I’d start with this post here.

May we have the courage to enter the arena knowing what and who truly counts, be brave enough to wear our victories and defeats on our sleeves, and use vulnerability to grow and create beautiful things.

– Hannah


‘Meet Me There’ — by H. WEND

Image Credit: Tran Phu via Unsplash.

Written by H. WEND, May 17th, 2023.

I’m thinking about

the moments we spent together

within our daydreams.

My memories

of the family room in the back,

the hazy days

when the sun shined

through the windows

are fading.

Share yours with me,

and I’ll share mine.

Everything is within grasp.

Even a home beyond brass gates

sprawled across an acre or two.

Tell me about the colour blue—

curtains in your kitchen.

Tell me about the foyer table,

the vase,

and lily of the valley.

Share something sweet with me.

Tell me where you are,

lost in the daydream.

You’ve got that look in your eyes.

Meet me there—

we’ll talk about what will be.

Let’s get lost again,

over something sweet.

Where are you—


It’s been so long.

I’ll build the things—

the home sprawled across green grass,

a circular driveway,

a bench beneath a great big tree.

I walk empty hallways,

holding something sweet,

untouched blue curtains,

furniture made of pine.

Walls your hands will never graze.

The hope I’d find you,

curled up on your bed—

fitted with floral-print sheets,

watching a midday film,

grows empty.

The only dreams I share with you—


are the ones long gone

and the ones that awaken

when I fall sleep.

But dreams—

They’re all I have.

Dreams with empty halls,

a quiet kitchen with blue curtains,

and furniture made of pine.

Meet me there—

on the bench

beneath the great big tree.

© H. WEND 2023 Dear Jo-Anne

To My Favourite Mothers This Mother’s Day

Image Credit: Kevin Laminto via Unsplash.

Written by H. WEND, May 14th, 2023.

Mother’s Day isn’t quite what it used to be. For as long as I can remember, I have always known that I had a very special mother, that apart from strange blips in my adolescence, I always believed I was incredibly lucky to have had her. She was my life’s greatest blessing.

When Mother’s Day would come around, it was not nearly enough to celebrate and thank her, but it would come anyway, and I’d give her chocolate, slippers, breakfast in bed, and a card in the morning before the family gathered for a meal and chocolate cake.

The first Mother’s Day that came without my mother felt hollow, somewhat meaningless, annoying even. It still feels like an event I’m no longer invited to— Kicked out and shut out forever.

Continue reading “To My Favourite Mothers This Mother’s Day”

Sinking and Floating

Image Source: Engin Akyurt via Unsplash.

Written by H. WEND. April 11th, 2023.

I’ve been distant. I am so used to abandoning my ship, I almost did it again. I create something really wonderful, something I want so badly but then after a while the waters within and around me grow violent. The doubt sets in, the fear of not being able to stay consistent hovers over me, and unworthiness unveils my truth. Get to safety, return to quiet, return to nothingness. My body knows the drill all too well and I drown in the torrent again. Then, when it’s safe, I emerge in rebirth and start again.

“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.”

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar.

Nine weeks ago, my world imploded. Just like everything else, I figured I’d talk about it another time when I’ve found healing but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I’m so tired of pushing things away to deal with later, only to spend years in its pain. Nine weeks ago, a long term relationship came to an end. It felt like an earthquake and though I am familiar with loss, I am no expert at coping with it.

Continue reading “Sinking and Floating”


Image Credit: Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash

Written by H. WEND. April 7th, 2023.

Five little ones sleeping peacefully- each of them positioned around their mother, close enough to reach out should a bad dream come their way. It was there, she prayed she would be able to hold them close for as long as time would allow.

When I was a little girl my siblings and I rarely slept in our bedrooms. Dad worked nights as a Taxi driver which meant the evenings were reserved for my mother and us kids. Evenings felt like another world, it was a hidden safe space.

Every night, after dinner and baths, my mother would slide our mattresses out of our bedrooms and lay them across the living room floor.

We would help by carrying out our blankets and pillows before finding a comfy place to snuggle in and watch TV shows before we went to sleep.

It was our cocoon.

Each of us fell asleep within an arms reach of each other, safe and sound.

The cocoon was warm, comforting and undetected by monsters and bad things.

There, in our cocoon, it seemed nothing could go wrong.

It was just a mother and her babies; my mother and us kids.

“David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning” | Unlocking Us with Brené Brown

Image Credit: Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash,

Written by H. WEND. January 27th, 2023.

The Podcast

Image Source: ©2023 Brené Brown, LLC

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown is the podcast that drew me into the podcast world. In fact, it was this very episode that I listened to first which means this podcast is special!

Continue reading ““David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning” | Unlocking Us with Brené Brown”

Miss Harvey’s Grief

Image Credit: Alexander Grey via Unsplash.

Written by H. WEND. January 12th, 2023.

Miss Harvey was a young teacher, in her early to mid twenties. She had short red hair and freckles. I adored her. She was beautiful, upbeat and goofy. She was my kindergarten teacher.

One day, Miss Harvey came in and she was quiet. Throughout the morning it became more apparent that something was wrong.

Continue reading “Miss Harvey’s Grief”

‘I Dreamt of You’ — by H. WEND

Image Credit: Ithalu Dominguez via Pexels.

Written by H. WEND. January 5th, 2023.

Today marks 4 years since my mum’s passing, which seems absolutely surreal. Today, I thought I’d share a piece of writing I made recently in thought of her.

I Dreamt of You

by H. WEND

The sky nearing sunset,
We sat on a hill;
Our favourite place.
Lush green grass beneath us,
A bed of sunflowers.
Just us and the world.
As it had always been.
We were watching the sky,
As the sun began to fall;
Soft pink and orange hues,
Purple ink bled through scattered clouds.
I saw the evening light touch your face…
Your skin, your green speckled eyes
Illuminated by the light.
It was as if,
You had never left.
The wind blew a gentle breeze.
I took a deep breath.
Suddenly, I realised the depth
Of missing you.
Desperation filled my lungs,
My heart grew heavy.
“Mum,” I whispered,
“I don’t want this to end.”
The wind grew stronger,
Singing as it swirled around us.
You smiled, took my hand in yours,
And, you said,
“We don’t have much longer,
Stay in this moment with me.”
Then you nodded toward the sunset;
An array of the most beautiful colours
Painted across the sky before us.
And us,
At the edge of night.
Our world;
Slowly fading, slowly fading.
It was painstakingly beautiful,
It was all too familiar,
It was ‘Goodbye’.

© H. WEND 2023 Dear Jo-Anne