“You’ve got to find yourself first. Everything else will follow.”
Charles De Lint, Dreams Underfoot
I had a favourite pair of rain boots that looked just like a tiny pair of white cowgirl boots. It didn’t matter that they were made of rubber and not leather- I thought they were the genuine thing.
As I grew up, my idea of what I wanted to be changed.
Sometimes, I wanted to be a writer.
Sometimes, I wanted to be an artist.
Sometimes, I wanted to own a shop.
Sometimes, I wanted to own a publishing house.
In high school, grade eleven to be exact, one of my teachers asked her class a simple but very loaded question: where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The time frame would have put me one year after college, but that didn’t matter. I knew beyond a doubt, at that point, that I would be working on getting my second book published, and that I would be married to an awesome man, with 2 kids (a boy and a girl, naturally), and a house of my own.
To say that things didn’t work out according to that plan is a massive understatement. I attended a Fine Arts program in college, and it was roughly then that my font for writing inspiration seemed to dry up. It didn’t matter, though, because I had other creative outlets.
When I graduated, my lack of self-confidence prevented me from applying to arts-related jobs that I should have been perfectly qualified for. So, instead I turned to housekeeping. Perhaps I should say, I turned back to housekeeping, since I had been doing that type of work intermittently since high school, as a way of making some extra cash.
Over the next 15 years, I tried all kinds of other jobs, but when they inevitably fell through I returned to housekeeping- my safety net. I didn’t particularly like the work, but I was good at it and could always find jobs. In that time, I also had a series of bad relationships (including a marriage) that did little but make me feel as though I was being pushed into a neat little box and kept there.
Being so busy trying to be whatever they needed me to be, I lost all sense of who I was as a person. Instead, my sense of identity became wrapped up in who I was with, and what job I was doing. If I didn’t have either, I felt lost.
Eventually, having little time to devote to it, even the font of inspiration for art dried up. A creative person who loses their outlets is like an automaton, going through life without the thing that made them a real person.
I felt hollow, so when I finally decided to let myself be alone for a while, after going through a number of damaging relationships, I filled the empty spaces in my soul with so much work that I had little time to think about myself.
I hated the way I lived.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across a housekeeping client that liked me so much as a person that she started asking me to get together with her on the weekends. We would meet at her house, and make beaded jewellery or paint her bird seed bins, or do something else creative.
It was enough to ignite the spark again, though it still took a long time for the flame to really catch. I stuck to housekeeping, still not feeling like I had a path of my own to walk. I stuck with it for a few more years, in fact, until I was settled in a place across the country, with a family I’d made with a man who wanted nothing more than for me to love myself and be whatever person I wanted to be.
I stuck with it until life kicked me in the ass, and made it virtually impossible for me to work as a housekeeper, by the simple expedient of having me accidentally drop a kettle full of boiling water on my foot. The scarring made it impossible for my foot to flex completely- something that is kind of important in some parts of housekeeping.
The idea of returning to writing had been percolating in the back of my mind, in the months leading up to that accident, but I pushed it back because it seemed risky. Although it hurt like a sonofabitch, both physically and emotionally, I took the accident as a kind of sign. I had to stop playing it safe, to have the freedom to figure out who I am.
I untied the ropes that bound me, and walked into the great blue yonder. I started walking my path, and writing my story.