Category Archives: Chancov Thoughts

I’m A Bricklayer Too

Chateau Laroche, Loveland, OH

I am a bricklayer by trade. I build walls because the act of laying brick by brick gives me a point of focus, a fulfilling purpose. I build walls because they make me feel safe. I build walls to prevent possible threats from the outside, however walls cannot protect me from voices that lie within.

Happiness can only truly be found in the present and yet it is so easy to let our minds live in the past or according to an unseen future. With the same appeal of lacing up an old, beat up pair of converse, our thoughts habitually return to that familiar place of comfort.

Locked safely inside an impenetrable box or free to roam the earth as I please one thing is certain, I will remain. I can no sooner escape from myself whether I’m wearing four inch stiletto heels or footwear suited for running.

I was once under the impression that if I picked up and moved again, started over in a new place by my own hand, I would find happiness. Happiness would spring up out of the greener grass in which I planted my fresh seedlings.

I have come to realize that happiness is not a memory, a destination nor a permanent state of being. It is a choice I make for myself every single moment of every single day. It is a choice to accept who I am and where I am and make peace with the things I can and cannot change.

In theory, building walls can seem like a full-proof plan. I’m sending a reminder that not only will those walls at no time protect you from yourself, but walls are excellent at obscuring goodness. In an effort to anticipate danger, you risk blocking out the sunlight.

I know the dark whispers you keep, for I hear them just as clearly. I can’t intercept the messages reaching your ears, but I can write you a letter confessing that you are not alone in your struggle. I’ll keep writing, if you promise to keep fighting.



The Curious Owl


My encounter with the Curious Owl happened while I was on one of my favorite local walking/running trails. I had been running at an area on the trail under heavy tree cover and ahead of me I noticed two people standing, looking and pointing at something in the trees above. I was on a mission to keep my pace so I didn’t pause to see what had them spellbound. I kept running and as I passed underneath the spot they were staring at, I remember hearing movement not far behind me.

After I finished my loop, I was cooling down with a walk around the parking lot when suddenly I heard a perturbed sounding female voice yell, “Excuse me!” Surely this person can’t be talking to me, I thought. I kept walking. “Excuse me! Were you the one that was just running in the woods?” Ok, maybe she is talking to me. I stopped and turned around expecting a confrontation, “Yeah,” I answered matter of factly.

The woman struggled to speak as if she were out of breath, exasperated by the fact she couldn’t get her words out quick enough, “Well, we just had to tell you,” she motioned toward her male companion… “when you went running by us, we were watching two owls in the trees and when you ran past, the baby one swooped down right next to your head. We think it was after your ponytail, like maybe it thought it was a squirrel or something.”

Thinking back to that moment I imagine I looked quite perplexed scratching my head and searching the empty air around me hoping to happen upon a few floating words. I remained silent wondering what to say given this…unexpected information. When my words finally decided to assemble themselves into an intelligible sequence I said, “I wonder if it’s a sign.”

“Well I don’t know, but we just had to tell you that.” I stood rooted to the green patch of grass I was standing on as I watched the couple turn and walk towards their vehicle and drive off.

As I crawled in my car to leave I couldn’t help but think about how odd the occurrence was. Certainly it couldn’t be a common experience, the owl itself or the way in which I learned of its presence.

I had questions. What do you do when you have questions that need to be answered? Google. I typed some version of owls and symbolism in the search bar. I came away with two pieces of information. The first described a more well-known depiction; the owl is commonly used in our culture to represent wisdom or knowledge. The second explanation I uncovered described how in some cultures the owl served as a warning for death or tragedy. Fantastic. Nice to know I brought death upon someone all because I had to go running through the woods.

With this new information and my ongoing battle to try and keep looking toward the positive— I decided that if it had been a sign from the universe, I was going to view it as a positive one. What does any of this actually mean? I choose to see it as this: Be like the young, curious owl. Let go of the sturdy branch on which you cling and take flight, even if it means risking a mistake.

A few days later I was retelling the story to my dad, including my google search. As we sat on the back of his box truck discussing it, an idea occurred to me. Seeking wisdom and knowledge of the world and of myself would in a way— lead to the death of the person I once was to make room for the newly enlightened one. One might call it a death without tragedy.


Why Do I Write?


Incredible, isn’t it—that we are able to explain what the mind imagines with a pen or keyboard? If you think about it, there is a hell of a lot of time and space between our brain and our fingertips. I like to think that extra distance is a gift. I’m able to express thoughts and ideas in a way I am not capable otherwise; streaming out the words one by one with clarity and conviction much like a fierce water current.

Often my writing serves as a form of therapy. My mind is a churning, boiling pot of thoughts and providing it with a point of focus allows steam to escape through to freedom. A break from the constant sloshing, I like how my writing seems to keep me in the present moment. Recently, I was introduced to a quote from Lao Tzu that says, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Even if I’m writing about a memory from the past or an idea about the future, my brain chooses to focus on the words. I focus on the way in which I sew them together, the art of writing. And so I stay in my skin, in my body, in the chair I sit. In the moment. Focus for a busy brain is like the sensation felt after removing a heavy backpack from one’s shoulders: relief.

Writing is my friend, my colleague and my coach. It reminds me that I’m intelligent, thoughtful and authentic. It challenges me to be bold, to take chances, to be creative and to have a voice when my vocal chords fail me. It teaches me lessons about life, about others, about myself while bathing me in sunlight and pouring water down into my roots; forever supporting and encouraging my stalk to grow taller.

Writing gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m serving a greater purpose. If I fold my genuine, honest, passionate and love-filled work into a paper airplane and send it flying out into the universe, I feel that for the most part only good things can come from it. I aim to see it as I’m doing my part to spread good in the world no matter how small or insignificant I feel at times.

Happiness is found in the thrill of stringing the right words together to mean exactly what I’m thinking, in an artfully crafted fashion. It is in the smug smile brought to my mouth after using a word correctly based on its definition before I’ve checked it on Happiness is in the eternal hope that another person may feel something from words on a page. From my words.

If you think about it, there is a hell of a lot of time and space between my words on a page and the brain of another human being. Incredible, isn’t it—the idea that my own creation could be the source of inspiration in another, given the distance?



The Words I Never Said

There you are, stunned. Frozen to the very ground you stand on like a man made of snow who’s been left alone after all the cheerful, rosy-cheeked children have gone inside.

Muscles immobilized, heart or stomach (at that moment it’s uncertain which) beneath your feet, limbs hanging on by thin threads…

In the middle of a winter snow storm, everything stops.

The only sound is the silent, suffocating, choking on all the words that refuse to release themselves from your throat.

Have you been there?

Before any one clear thought or emotion can bubble itself to the surface, feeling as if you’re trapped inside a tumbling, swirling snow globe filled with a thousand emotions leaving you simultaneously nauseous and paralyzed…

I have.

In my circumstance, I was hurt by someone with whom I had shared a very close bond. When I had my last and final conversation with that person, I found that I was at a loss for words. Overwhelmed by shock, anger and grief it seemed the only words I could find were, “What happened?! Explain to me what happened!” I spewed them on repeat like I was an improperly programmed robot.

I replay that conversation in my mind over and over again until I feel sick to my stomach, haunted by the words I never said. I feel ashamed, I feel foolish. I feel smaller than a speck of glitter floating around the inside of that snow globe. I find myself wishing that I could have a do-over.

If I could push the reset button and my interaction was played out just as I wanted, would I feel better? Would that bring me peace?

For anyone who wishes they could go back in time and say the words that needed to be said, I can’t give you a time machine and I can’t bring you peace, but I can give you comfort and acceptance. Comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone, and acceptance from one who has endured the same method of torture. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 20 years since, or 20 minutes. Your words have infinite value. Your words matter because they matter to me.

I don’t know who you are or your individual situation, but I promise you, your words are precious stones. Not all those you encounter deserve to hang them on a chain around their neck.


Yes, I’ll have the retrospect with a side of introspect

Dear 11 year old self,

Don’t worry about the kid that takes advantage of your quietness, because you don’t know how to stand up for yourself yet. Don’t worry about the girls standing in a giggling bunch by the bleachers, jeering because you’re not allowed to shave your legs yet. Don’t worry about feeling different, like you’ll never fit in.

You will learn to speak your mind. One day you will know what it means to have a voice and to speak with conviction. One day you will be able to make your own choices. One day you will choose compassion over ridicule because you know what it feels like to lumber in those shoes. You will know that you are different from all others, and you will learn it is the greatest gift you will ever receive.

Dear 27 year old self,

People will come into your life strangers and familiar faces, and not all of them will be with you for the duration of your journey. It won’t always be clear why your path crosses with theirs, why you walk alongside one another for however long it may be. Sometimes it won’t be easy, parting ways with a fellow traveler when your paths diverge.

Know in your heart that this is truth: you have been walking for *27 years. For 27 years you have lived, learned, loved, suffered, experienced, fell onto your hands and knees, got back up on your feet and kept walking. You have made the choice time and time again to put one foot in front of the other. Out of all of the people that walk with you—those that no longer do, the ones that continue to, and those that may in the future, not a single one could ever take those steps for you or from you.

No matter the events that transpired you have never stopped walking. You’ve come a hell of a long way and you’ve got a lengthy stretch of road ahead of you. Persevere my dear, YOU have built this person made for conquering.


*Now 28, I wrote this prior to waving goodbye to 27. The timing was perfect.

For those of us still having birthdays

This is the first birthday I can ever remember feeling unsettled about my age. Does everyone go through some sort of crisis as they draw nearer to 30? I’m certainly not where I thought I would be nor where I want to be. I’m not necessarily unhappy with the way things have turned out up until this point. It’s just that all of a sudden it feels as if someone flipped over the hourglass labeled Brittni’s Life kickstarting the steady, streaming descent of sand. I don’t recall signing any paperwork authorizing this. I demand unlimited flips for the rest of time, thank you very much. No? That’s not how this works?

Previous birthdays were spent celebrating milestones with each new age giving rise to exciting new found freedoms and independence. What now? I find myself frustrated and at times sick to my stomach because not only do I feel so far away from my goals, but my birthday is a bright yellow sticky note stuck to the inside of my eyelids reminding me that I have less time to reach them. I have less time to be young, less time to have new experiences. I could worry myself into a mental institution obsessing over lost time, or a more likely scenario, hinder my progress taking active steps towards my aspirations.

Here’s where I try to turn my thinking around: Why am I putting so much emphasis on what I have not yet accomplished, rather than celebrating the life that has been lived thus far? Your birthday is a celebration of the experiences you’ve had and lessons you have learned. Instead of fixating yourself on turning another year older, celebrate the person you’ve become.

Celebrate with the people who love you, the ones who think you’re great even when you’re not. Celebrate not the years, but the moments that have come to pass. Celebrate solo. Truly celebrate yourself. Feel the weight of what you carry on your back, good and bad, all that you are is worth celebrating.


The Pursuit

How do people measure self worth and the worth of others? Is it measured by how much one has contributed to their community or to society as a whole? Number of friends? The amount of money in a bank account? The number of languages one can speak? The number of beautiful, traveled places one has seen? Perhaps, the amount of love and understanding one has given?

Happiness, success, peace; together these ideas become a framework for greatness. Individually, each have different meanings for different people. Are they something to strive for in a way as to attain an overall state of being when we reach a certain age? Or are they feelings we experience from single moment to moment spanning the timeline that is our life? Combination of both?

What does greatness mean to me? Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I find myself worrying that I’m not doing the right things, or the right things quick enough in order to achieve my greatness; greatness always being a vague concept with no legitimate target at which to aim my arrow. As if one day I’m supposed to wake up and feel like I’ve made it—*Opens eyes, sits up in bed, raises fist in the air, exclaims: I am finally the person I’ve been working my entire life to be! Sounds silly doesn’t it?

The older I get, the more often I feel as if I’m starting over. Like if my life were a novel, as my story progresses, there are increasingly more and more chapters. More beginnings and endings. More answers, but always the uncovering of more questions. I have a very strong sense of self and yet I feel as if I’m destined [or doomed—if you’re a glass half empty guy or gal] to walk a path of self discovery for the remainder of my days. Can greatness be achieved by someone like me? Is it within my wide eyed wandering that I find it?

I have been taught, I have been guided and I have been molded. But I have learned with my head in a book, I have carved my own walking stick and I have picked clay from beneath my finger nails. I cannot be anything other than what I am. I do not choose to be. I choose to grow. Let me be me. Let me be orange and yellow and red, but let me brighten my petals. Let me catch fire. At the end of this life, the only thing I take with me is my soul. Let my soul be vivid.