Karen Von Hahn, 56, is a columnist with the Toronto Star who has written on style and lifestyle trends for magazines and newspapers for more than 25 years. Out this month is her occasionally dark and poignant memoir about her late mother, What Remains: Object Lessons in Love and Loss (House of Anansi).
Why did she wait so long to get personal? “Losing your mother changes everything,” says von Hahn, “particularly when you had a mother with as huge a personality as I did. The whole experience left me so raw and with so many questions that I wanted to take on something really hard and be totally honest while I still had it in me.”
What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self?
That you will never be as attractive as you are now and you should enjoy it! But more seriously: your 20s is not actually the happiest and most fulfilling time in your life and that the best is yet to come.
What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?
Stay interested. Stay open to adventure. Keep saying “yes.”
What do you know for sure?
That there is no logic to the universe, no real reward for being “good” or denying yourself all the pleasures in life other
than the false ego satisfaction of self-control.
What have you learned?
That men and women really are fundamentally different.
What will you never learn?
That there are some people who actually prefer drama.
Best piece of advice?
That in the game of Life, I should play the man, not the puck. And when encountering any obstacle or potential conflict, I should always be asking myself, “What’s my end goal? What am I really trying to achieve here?”
Did it work?
I’m working on it!
What inspires you?
Travel, most of all. I live to encounter new places and experiences. It blows me away, the richness of possibilities in this big wide world yet to explore. Also art, film, music and everything I read, from the daily newspapers to fiction.
The moment that changed everything?
The day I sat down next to the
man who would become my husband and partner of more than three decades on our very first
day of law school.
Happiness is …
A fire, a swim, a clear blue sky, a nice wine, a good laugh, crisp white sheets – and always a great book!
A version of this article appeared in the April 2017 issue on page 96.