Kate Johnson

Growth Manager at Alongside.com, Writer at likelytale.com

We used to joke, that if it weren't for bad luck - I'd have none. These days, I'm grateful. I've gotten pretty fluid in navigating life's hurdles.

Those who have come to know me, often remark at the landscape of struggles I've encountered. They are usually stories I share to help lend context to the way I think and make choices. Sometimes I share them to help a hurting friend understand what I mean when I say, "I hear you".

My step-father stole the college fund I worked through high-school to help build. I have been physically and sexually assaulted. I have learned to thrive with multiple chronic illnesses. It is not these details that matter, though.

Using traditional measuring sticks, it may not appear that I have gotten far with my life. I choose to use my own. Repeatedly knocked down and yet, I am still here, I am whole, I am resolute, and I am pushing forward with everything that I have. With this mind, and the help of a few utterly amazing people, there is a world of possibility and option available to me.

In the words of Ash Beckham -
"There is no “harder”; there is just “hard.” We need to stop ranking our “hard” against everybody else’s “hard” to make us feel better or worse about our closet and just commiserate on the fact that we all have “hard.”

At some point in our lives, we all live in closets, and they may feel safe. Or at least, safer than what lies on the other side of that door. But I’m here to tell you, no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.

To that I'll add, we need only open the door.

What was your greatest stage of growth?  What made it a shift for you? 

I believe it is still ongoing.

It began while facing disability for a chronic pain disorder. Instead of accepting this contraction of possibility, I decided to push my boundaries wholeheartedly. (Though at the time it felt like more of a fight-or-flight response)

I ended up working in a busy restaurant kitchen for six years, working my way from dishwasher to manager and learned to drive the limits of my pain far beyond what I thought they were.

A while after a significant back injury I decided to make a bet on myself and chose to return to school. I faced financial challenges with the decision, but there was someone who believed in my potential and helped provide the monetary support I needed.

During this, I taught myself to play drums (and sing) and joined an all-female punk band. It's become my favourite outlet for embracing pain and channeling my mind. I also won a slam poetry contest, but that's a story for another time.

I graduated at the top of my class and went to work in the start-up world. In the short time since, I have been humbled by the opportunities provided to me - working from a Junior Developer to Growth Manager in a short time span.

Every step of the way, I was surrounded by so many amazing people who were entirely alive and thriving in the nuances of our human condition. Those people inspired and motivated me.

It is a period where exploring all the corners of possibility is the most exciting thing I can imagine doing. It is also where I have learned to open up and be seen. It was where I learned how to love with an open heart.

If you are going to do it, be all in.


What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

Our struggles are our gifts. The way out is through.

"Why is this happening to me?" is a trap. No matter the room you are in, someone is sitting next to you who has it better, and someone who has it worse. At the same time, there is no better or worse. Things simply are.

This past year has had some of the most significant obstacles and struggles I have ever faced. There have been periods of total overwhelm. Alongside this, there have been some of the most amazing and heart-warming experiences.

When I look back at the things that I have experienced in my life, I would not take any of the struggles away - they have made me stronger and more dynamic. They have granted me abilities I would not otherwise have. Every moment of friction is, in the end, an opportunity for exponential growth - if we bring the right attitude.


Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

Everyone who shares a piece of their vulnerable selves: those who find the courage to be seen.

It seems strange to me that being ourselves, bare and complete, is seen as a radical act of bravery. So every time I see one of those moments, I'm fuelled and inspired - filled with the energy and drive to channel that authenticity myself.

The examples that first come to mind:
Marc Theriault, Jesse LeBlanc, James Lawrence - for their authenticity, generosity, and seemingly natural ability to see the possibility in everything. They are (unknowingly) my mentors in the power of choice and perspective.

Yves Boudreau and Pauly Ting - for all the same reasons, and making me see the first three weren't anomalies.

To everyone showing how expansive our worlds can be through their spirit and vulnerability - I see you.

What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced?

It is not the things that happen to us, but what we do with those moments.

No matter our struggles and successes - we always get to choose what we do with them. Both can be our liberation or our burdens; the only difference is in how we decide to see them.

Let either one control you and you lose much of your power and potential.


Growth Advocate, Passionate Question-asker, Writer, Drummer/Singer, Stubborn Human, Poet

Kate Johnson