On Losing and Gaining

Our latest Living Room episode is called “What I Gained When I Lost.” I was absent for this recording session. (I gained a painting trip to Southern Utah with my Dad when I lost a chance to record with my Living Room friends!) 

The idea of gaining from losing is powerful. Host Christie Gardiner says we become who we’re meant to be when we sacrifice something great...for something more important. The less-dramatic business term for this kind of gaining and losing is called “opportunity cost.” 

Sometimes what I’ve lost (my opportunity cost) isn’t a conscious sacrifice, but my need to acknowledge the hand of a higher power at work in my life.

Capitol Reef National Park


In all honesty, when I glibly said I gained a painting trip when I lost that chance to record our show, it’s true. Three days in Snow Canyon. But there’s more. That painting trip was a consolation prize. What I lost first was my favorite tradition. A class I was teaching at UVU for the third year in a row, taking a dozen students to paint on location in Capitol Reef National Park, was unexpectedly cancelled at the last minute. I didn’t just lose a fabulous week encouraging students to learn and grow and create. I lost my entire summer’s income. And a trip I count on yearly to rejuvenate my art and my soul. And yes, my dad was coming along this year—something I was really looking forward to.

I have to admit I grumbled. I was frustrated that it was cancelled so late in the game, after I had already put in so much work, with no compensation. It felt like the university cared more about the numbers than the students’ educational experience, which was also frustrating. 

But something happened during those three weeks we would have been holding class all day every day that I never could have predicted. A very close friend of mine who’s been battling cancer for years suddenly became gravely ill. She’d been living in Texas for a few months, and was flown to Utah for brain surgery. 

Because I wasn’t teaching, I was able to visit her in the hospital, hug her and kiss her forehead and whisper encouraging words before she headed into surgery. I was able to see her as she recovered after surgery, and again when they resumed chemotherapy. Most important of all, I was led back to the hospital on a random Tuesday afternoon when she needed a visit. And when the cheyne-stokes breathing began, just minutes later, I was there. I was able to stay with her and hold her hand and literally breathe along with her until she took her final breath. 

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It is one of life’s most poignant and beautiful privileges to surround a loved one and help usher them on to the next sphere of life.

Losing a chance to teach a class and paint on location in a gorgeous national park was a heavy hit. But it doesn’t seem like much in comparison to what I gained. 



   Jana Winters Parkin is an artist, writer, teacher, and adjunct art professor at UVU. She and her husband have 3 kids and 2 dogs, and she spends every day possible rejuvenating her soul in Utah's glorious mountains.

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