Why I Convinced Myself I Hated Words (And Other Thoughts From My Year of Silence)

In January 2013, I sat down, dyed my hair dark brown, tried to wake up at 6 am every morning, gave up Coca Cola, and completely changed the track I thought I wanted my life to be on, a track I had been working towards since I was 13 years old. Some of the changes were short lived (we all know 6 am and Hannah go together like mud and white shoes), and some of them I did really well with (giving up Coca Cola, who knew I could do that?), and some of the changes I've never looked back on (when you're miserable going to journalism classes and you have two more years of journalism classes ahead of you, you really should transfer into something you love, like non profit studies). One of my fatal flaws is that sometimes, when I make a big decision or when I give something up, I downplay it. I pretend the big decision didn't just fundamentally change my life and everything I've known up until this point. I pretend that I'm not hurting over what I have given up.

I try so hard to prove to everyone that I'm fine without what I have given up, with what I have lost because I have somehow deluded myself into believing that is how I'll appear strong and brave: when I pretend like nothing hurts, and when I pretend like what I have given up doesn't matter at all.

So when I transferred out of journalism, I told myself it didn't matter that I wouldn't be writing all the time anymore. But a piece of me also thought if I wasn't going to be a journalist, I wasn't going to write at all.IMG_4010

For a year and a half, I was very silent. I wrote three blog posts in a year and a half, and my journal entries became incredibly sparse. I just stopped writing. I told myself I had fallen out of love with words, I was discovering new passions, I was falling in love with new things. I told myself I wasn't allowed to write, and I shouldn't write, because I didn't want to be a journalist anyways, so what did words matter to me anyhow?

I think a part of me was very scared that if I admitted I loved words and writing, I'd have to go back to journalism, and the thought of going back to where I was miserable took a lot out of joy out of me. And I promised myself when I left journalism that I would seek joy in all I did.

Words were always my safe place, my solace. Words used to be where I expressed my feelings and emotions best - where I expressed myself best. Words used to be where I found the most joy, and I just abandoned them because I told myself words couldn't matter anymore - I had given them up, I wasn't allowed to care. I said I wasn't creative enough to write anymore, I lost my writing spark.

My list of excuses was pretty extensive, and to be honest, it feels a little cowardly.

This summer, I told myself I was going to start writing again. It started with long walks in the park and a journal tucked in my bag, just in case inspiration struck. Then it was writing before I went to bed. And then it was sneaking to a little Starbucks on my lunch break because I knew I had to write, and researching English classes to take in the fall. I found myself writing about Honduras, and about communities I love, and stuff with my dad, and how my heart was feeling - and I found myself falling back in love with words, and my heart was super full of joy.


When I first started writing again, I wrote this:

I used to be a writer, but I don't think I am any more. 

I can write - give me an essay or an email or even a letter, and I'm your girl. I have fairly excellent grammar, so that's not the problem. 

Can you be a writer if you don't have a degree in it? I don't know. A piece of me wants to say no, that without a degree, without a piece of paper that says I've done this much school to be learned and wise in my usage of words, I'm not qualified, so shhh, no one wants to hear it. 

And another piece of me, a larger piece of me, knows that's bull shit. If I can coax them out of me, I can get the words to come out - but I lack inspiration most days. I used to think in beautiful phrases. Now I'm not sure I think at all. 

There are still things to write about, Hannah. You just have to find them.

The worst thing I told myself in the year and a half of silence was that my words didn't matter anymore because the entire world wasn't going to read the words of Hannah Van Dyk, an internationally famous journalist. But I have never wanted to write for the entire world - I've always wanted my words to matter to one person, even if that person is me.

I have a wild, magnificent story to tell, filled to the brim with beautiful memories & heartbreaking sadness & lolz to the walls moments, and this wild, magnificent story - filled to the brim with words from an extremely awkward and incredibly loud girl - matters to me.  It seems crazy to not tell that story the best way I know how, in the way that gives me the most joy - with my words.

And with all that being said - will you all join me in my new writing adventure? I'm not sure if it'll be the way it used to, but I'm excited to be writing again (& I hope you kind of are too).

20 Things I'm Grateful For After The Year of 20

Of all the years I’ve lived, the year of 20 was stand out & spectacular – it was filled with adventure and stretching myself and more of learning about who I am and where my passions lie. And while I learned a lot, I also grew a deeper appreciation for a lot of things, people, & moments in my life, so here we go – the top 20 things I was most grateful for in the year I was twenty.

hannah in honduras


I. My faith in God, who’s always leading and guiding me on great adventure (even when I numb His voice & try to avoid where He’s leading me).

II. Words. I realized how much I value words (and how much I miss them when I'm not writing). I spent a lot of time avoiding words this year, but even when I avoid writing them down, words find a way to calm me. I’m also super happy & grateful that I’ve started writing them down again.

III. Family. As we all grow up and as we grow a lot closer, I continue to grow an appreciation for their unending love and support.


IV. Alone time.

V. Moments of beauty that take your breath away – specifically Honduran sunsets that make the sky look like it is on fire, & evenings when there are cotton candy clouds in the sky & toes curled in sugar like sand.

VI. #cyHonduras: for making my year unforgettable, for turning chocala into a thing, for all the laughs that made my belly hurt (& sometimes for the tears when our hearts hurt), for putting the fun back in fundraisers, & for clearly demonstrating & reminding me how awesome our God is.

VII. Calvary CRC, my home & place of refuge. Thankful for their love, their consistent (& awe inspiring) support, their clear demonstration of God’s love, & for always feeling like home.


VIII. Ryerson: for being a solid place to work, for the privilege of my education, & for incredible mentors & role models.

IX. Steeped tea, road trips, poetry, incredible role models, the colour yellow, & a million people I can call when I'm sad & need to chat (or when I'm overjoyed & need to celebrate).

X. 336 Jarv, my little home. Grateful for amazing roommates, for safety, & for a roof over my head (even when it’s leaky).

XI. Mel - thankful for her immense love of life, her kind heart, her ability to make me laugh super hard, & her desire to see me paint with bright colours.


XII. Honduras. Forever grateful for the opportunity to go there again, and even more thankful for the beauty of the country & the people, the renewed love of community in my life, and the super strong, strong women. (If I can be a fraction of these women plus a fraction of my mom, I’ll be a thrilled gal.)

XIII. Good pens, fun water colours, laundromats & vanilla lattes with cinnamon & good tunes on a quiet evening, and knitting.

XIV. Clean water & lots of access to it – I’m so thankful that I don’t have to choose between a concrete floor or having water for the rest of the month. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about this injustice this year, & for the families who made me rethink the way I live. (& I’m thankful for leaders who recognize that injustice and go back to the family to give whatever water we have left.)

Derek in Honduras


XV. My health & my two strong legs to take me wherever I need to go. (& for when my feet can’t take me to the places I want to go or to the faces I want to see, I’m thankful for busses & trains & people that chauffeur me around the greater Hamilton area.)

XVI. The little sun beam children that are in my life. Not only do they tell it like it is & make me laugh out loud with their antics & thoughts on life, but I’m most thankful that they make me want to a better person. Also for making me laugh.

XVII. Bubblegum ice cream from Hewitts. Not only is it the best bubblegum ice cream on planet earth, I also rarely get to have it which makes me even more grateful for it.

XVIII. The spread of Hannah-isms. Because no matter what, hearing people say long hair don’t care, KOO KOO KA CHOO, or chocala will forever make my heart warm & put a smile upon my face (even if they don’t mean to or don’t know what it means).


XIX. Renewed trust in myself and a new belief in myself as a strong, resilient young woman who can get through whatever shit life tosses her way with faith, incredible people that love her, some writing, and a whole lot of joy (& also tea).

XX. Joy. I think this has been a year of discovering the difference between joy & happiness. And then, it became about finding joy in small moments (like randomly walking into salsa dancing lessons in the park) & in the big moments (like standing up in front of people with your boss & the vice provost of students, & hearing your boss whisper, “This is a KOO KOO KA CHOO moment”). Pretty thankful to be living a life that feels very anchored in and surrounded by joy.



 Bring on some super great adventures, 21. I'm ready for ya.