They say you make your own luck. But it’s probably not as simple as that. And we each mean something different when we use that word, “luck”. I think a key to luck is recognizing it when it’s happening to you.
I also think a key to getting what you want, is knowing what you want in the first place. And it’s probably truthfully not precisely what everyone else around you wants, either. That’s maybe the trick.
For example, over time I realized I wasn’t really ashamed of my Mennonite family history. I’m actually intrigued. Because even though I’m born and bred in Southeastern Manitoba, chock-full of Mennonites… I didn’t know what made someone a Mennonite (still don’t, but at least now I know why, and the beginnings of various arguments for and against any sort of effort to define a Mennonite). So I’ve been on a journey to figure this out. For me it’s a matter of identity and my own personal story. How did all those previous generations end up making the decisions that they did, that led to me being here, now? These questions have been rattling around in my brain and together with Andrew I’ve been figuring this stuff out online.
It’s pretty niche, you guys.
But I like that the audience is self-selected. If you end up here and decide this is for you, then it’s for you. If you don’t connect to this right now, then it’s not for you, not today anyway, and that’s okay.
I’ve also been on a journey to learn how to articulate some of this in conversation, in public. With my voice. Not only the written word.
All this to say… me going public with my Mennonite investigations back in 2017 (the launching of Mennotoba.com) has ended up dovetailing nicely with my work-life, which I typically keep quite separate. But everywhere I go, there I am (as they say) — meaning you bring yourself with you wherever you go. And along with myself, I bring my interest and (incrementally) growing knowledge of Mennonites. I’ve been a copywriter at Golden West since 2005, and over the years I’ve realized that I hold a particular fascination with projects or writing pieces that have anything to do with Mennonites. I’ve also learned a lot based on the different advertising messages I’ve crafted or encountered. (For example, it’s because of my role at Golden West that I first learned of Neubergthal!)
Anyway. Then the pandemic arrived. I’m sorry to bring it up again, but it was a Thing. It was traumatic for all of us in different ways. For me, there was much good in it, as I was suddenly working from home and there was much that was delightful about that, for me. However, I did learn that I’m not the introvert I’d always assumed I was. I’m a tad bit on the extrovert side I think, because to not be around people, ever, did make me very sad. I also felt a lot of pressure to write something very great during lockdown, perhaps a tremendous breakout novel or something. I did not do that. Not at all. But I did start reading through Preservings, starting at the very beginning of the publication — back in the mid-90s when Delbert Plett began relentlessly stirring the pot, looking into the Mennonite history on the East Reserve in particular, generating interest, and various gatherings centered around Mennonitism were happening right here — the pictures were published in Preservings. There they were, photos of folks gathering to talk and learn about Mennonite history, sipping coffee and getting into discussions.
I stared at these pictures jealously, as I sat here in the quiet, with snow gathering outside and little else. I considered the fact though I had been alive when those events had taken place, but I’d been young, giving absolutely zero thought to Mennonites. I felt like I’d really missed out. I decided that if I would ever be so lucky as to stumble across another Mennonite gathering and sharing of information and active discussion, I would be there.
Of course, when I made this promise to myself, I assumed this would be simple little evening or weekend meetings in Steinbach, Randolph, Neubergthal, or Winnipeg. I had no idea that something grand was in the works: a cross-Canada train journey commemorating the centenary of the Russlaender migration to Canada!
When I learned of this, the scope was so large, I could not conceive of how I would manage to participate. I tried to shut it from my mind — even though Andrew was recruited to join the second leg of the journey from Toronto to Saskatoon. I very much wanted to be there but did not think it could happen for me so I continued to ignore the fact this was indeed happening.
It was pretty late in the planning game when I received the CTMS email (you can subscribe to these, you know!) stating there was one lonely seat left on Andrew’s portion of the journey. I thought that maybe that seat was waiting for me.
I had an idea.
What if I could represent Golden West on this journey and create pieces for the radio that would talk about the journey and what I had learned and experienced?
It turns out the answer was yes. I nearly fell over from shock.
Not only was this once-in-a-lifetime train journey taking place, commemorating this historic migration (what an amazing marriage of history and travel!) — but I was going to get to be there and learn in person and create content for my place of work?!
I feel incredibly grateful and lucky.
Now, because I was very late to this whole thing… you know that last seat on Andrew’s part of the journey? It was filled, and not by me. (That’s what I get for procrastinating!) And so, this is how I came to be booked into the third leg of the journey — Saskatoon to Abbotsford. I will be doing this alone!
Andrew and I tend to prefer doing everything together but it doesn’t always work out and this is one of those times. I’m happy I will see him in Saskatoon as his journey ends and mine begins, and then at the end of my journey when Andrew will meet me in Vancouver for a few days. But for the third leg of the Russlaender 100 journey, I will be on my own!
I think it will end up being a good thing, because when I’m alone to learn and process, I seem to absorb more. And so, I’m very excited and am busy preparing my brain for what is to come.
I’m sorry I haven’t talked about this yet on this blog because it’s a big, huge deal! Sometimes things are so big I don’t know how to talk about them.
At this moment, for me to prepare for the journey, I am busy clearing out my phone’s camera roll. It has been overextended for about half a year by now and the task has felt overwhelming, but I know I must prepare my phone for all the pictures and recordings I will soon be gathering.
I haven’t gone through these pictures in a very long time and as I do so now, I’m stunned at how lucky I am. It’s a real “this is your life” moment as I see images of friends, family, beauty, nature, contentment, and so many moments with Andrew. I’m flooded with gratefulness as I prepare for our extraordinary July.
I believe all seats for the train journey itself are spoken for and I think the first leg of the journey, from Quebec City to Toronto, begins this Wednesday. (Curious? The TourMagination link is here.)
However! There are public events happening along the entire journey, including three days of public events in Manitoba:
The Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg will be holding their annual conference July 14-15. It’s public and the information is all here. (You can attend in person or vitually!)
There will be an incredible Saengerfest, Singing Our Journey, happening at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg on the evening of Saturday, July 15th. I think some tickets may still be available, you can find them here.
And on Sunday July 16th, the Russlaender 100 Tour is coming to Steinbach! Catch up with them at the Mennonite Heritage Village. There will be a worship service at 10am. Of course the Livery Barn Restaurant is open for lunch on Sundays in the summer so you should stay on-site for your meal (best vereniki IMO) and then there are tours of the museum in the early afternoon at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00. Then also at 3pm there will be two award-winning one-act plays performed by Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre. Tickets are $25 each, and you can reserve yours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or find more information here.
Much more Russlaender 100 content to come!