How bizarre is it to realize that all this time you may have been trekking down the wrong path?
This course asks a lot of questions. They might even sometimes be questions I’ve thought of myself, but refused to answer. Just tucked it aside in one of my many, colourful boxes in the compartmentalized storage unit that is my brain. It’s probably labelled, “Don’t think about this anymore; it scares you.”
I took an aptitude test years ago, before college, to “make sure I was making the right choice.” The two highest recommendations were Photographer and Writer. I was 22, I wasn’t thinking about passion. I was thinking about making enough money to support myself in a city/province/country governed by oil and gas. I opted for writing, even though the idea of going to college and taking a load of photography courses sounded so enticing.
I loved college, for the first two years. I met one of my best friends there. I felt like I had purpose. I excelled in things again, and had professors praise me — praise was (slash maybe still is…) something I crave. You get a tiny taste, it’s delicious, you want more.
But eventually, I stopped caring as much. I was working at a bar to support myself through college. I was going to classes with people four+ years younger than me; fresh out of high school. They had moms and dads and financial support and Sunday dinners and families. I had my dog, my sister, and my friends. And for me, that was everything. Of course I was jealous of the people with parents. I always have been. Your mom hugs you? Loves you? Tells you that she loves you? Bizarre. You’re allowed to go to hockey games or ball games with your dad without your narcissistic mother getting jealous and putting the kibosh on that? Mind-blowing. Your parents help you get by without making it into a lifelong guilt trip about how your mother never wanted kids and they ruined her life and if she could go back she wouldn’t have had any, so no, she “has no obligation” to help you. Cool, man.
Like I said, I had what I had. My dog was my only constant for years. My sister and I fell out for a while — over an argument furnished by the Narcissistic Mother. I lived in 11 places in nine years. Tank and I moved over and over again. One place wouldn’t allow him, my sister already had a roommate, my friend offered her studio for us to share but we soon realized it was too small for all of us. We had a journey, Tank and I. That squishy guy kept me alive, and I’m not exaggerating that. I had a tumultuous, dark time — well, my entire childhood was bullshit, but being out completely on my own and trying to find my way without a lantern was scary. Tank was my best friend. We were so in love with each other that that sustained me. When he passed away last summer, he took the biggest piece of my heart with him, and for a long time I wanted to go be with him.
Anyway, I digress. I stopped caring so much about school because I lost motivation. No one gave a shit about me or what I was doing. I was working at a bar that had a cult-like community pull. Once you were in, you were sucked into the vortex of partying like you were a rockstar. Laughable, in our oil-driven city. But we had an amazing time. I have no regrets about how I chose to spend my 20s. I went to college, I travelled, I had a great job where I had a lot of fun, and I said yes to whatever was going on. Go away for the weekend? Sure. Go out for the fourth night in a row even though I open tomorrow and have a night class? Let’s do it.
My 20s were exactly how I wanted them to be, given my situation. Yes, I’ve wanted for a family; parents; love, blah, blah blah. That’s obvious. But for someone who didn’t have that, I made the best of it. I’m the first person who will vouch for the fact that blood does not make family. I’ve had the honour of choosing my family. My handful of friends that I trust and love are my family. My girlfriends are aunties to my daughter; I am an auntie to countless friends’ babies. I’ve spent holidays with friends and their families. It was awkward sometimes; sometimes I could feel the pity of their family members seeping through their pores, warm and leaving marks on their eggnog glasses. But whatever, I was the lone wolf and I got to spend some holidays with some really kind, loving, warm people.
So maybe this path, my writing path, hasn’t been totally wrong. It wasn’t all shit. I had peaks to help get over the valleys. I came out the other side banged up and bruised, but I’m still fucking here. That counts for something. My 13-year-old self would be stunned to learn that I was still alive.
I wonder if this was the plan along, and now I’m supposed to pick left or right again. Other passions are calling at me and I don’t want to ignore them. I can’t afford to ignore what I love because I don’t have the money or enough time. I can borrow a camera; I can stay up later to work on things — because seriously, I’m not going to wake up a goddamn hour earlier. That’s just ridiculous. I am not and will never be a morning person. I might as well be nocturnal for all of the energy I have in the morning.
First thing in the morning, I want to melt into my sheets and become invisible to others. By the time three or four o’clock rolls around, I can go for a run, walk the dog, bake like June fucking Cleaver, and plan out my future. But first thing the next morning, no. Restart. I need to prepare for the day and move slowly. I’m like a sloth, mixed with an owl. A slowl.
So. I’ve chosen my path, ever since I was out from underneath a storm cloud and able to go out into the world and find my place. I chose what I chose, and that’s what was meant to be. I can’t get stuck on the what-ifs, because I’ll spend, literally, weeks wondering if I made the wrong choice. I’ll wish so hard that I could magically transport myself in time and redo things. Or transplant myself into an entirely different world. One where I’m an accomplished writer, writing for the screen but never on it. I spend hours in my own head. It’s so much safer there.
My path has been rocky and serrated and curved and crazy. But it’s also been beautiful and exhilarating and infuriating and amazing. Despite all of the darkness, I’ve gotten to go to Europe several times. I’ve gotten to see places I’ve dreamed of seeing since I was a teenager. I’ve gotten to experience life out from underneath a cloud I always believed I was destined to die under. I’ve gotten to a place where I can see that my life really can be different; can be what I want it to be.
Guilt and shame and embarrassment shaped so much of my life, up until I wasn’t doused in them anymore. That may have been my past, but it is sure as hell not in my future, or my daughter’s future. I can’t wait to see what she loves, what she’s good at. I can’t wait to embarrassingly brag about her and watch her play. Music, sports, chess, Magic the Gathering? I don’t care. All I care about is that she’s happy and loved and supported and buoyed and uplifted. Yes, she’ll fall sometimes. No, I won’t always be able to save her or help her — she’s going to skin her knees and have her heart broken and feel sadness. But that pain won’t be from a cloud I’m placing over her life like a shroud.
Our lives are free of darkness, and I intend on spending every given chance playing in the sun. I might be the “weird” mom. Maybe I’ll be too quiet where her friend’s moms are loud; maybe I’ll let a “fuck” slip out and horrify some proper moms. I’ll definitely be the mom that loves her kid more than anything else, and does whatever she can to help her succeed.
Potential exists to be reached, and kids deserve to be helped grab theirs. I’m not here to hinder my child. I’m here to hold her and support her and love her and guide her. And maybe embarrass her once in awhile.