Richard Wagamese wrote in his book For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son that the most important lesson of all is this: “the journey is the teaching, and proof of the truthfulness of all things comes secretly, mysteriously, when you find yourself smiling when you used to cry, and staying staunchly in place when you used to run away.”
These words. I’m holding them tightly and zipping them up in my coat pocket. I’m carrying their weight with me each day. They used to be a lot heavier, but now they feel like the air I breathe in; simply a part of me and necessary for survival.
When I read these words something stirred. Again, I find myself in the middle of yet another transition and yet for the first time in what feels like forever, I’m not trying to run away (though the desire to definitely still exists). Truthfulness comes when we least expect it. Smiling when you used to cry, and staying staunchly in place when you used to run away.
I’m moving again; hopefully this place will stick for a few decades. That thought used to horrify me. Decades. Who could ever commit to something like that when there was so much of the world to see and so many things to experience. How can people be expected to stay put, when once upon a time we were all nomads?
Since 2010, I’ve lived in 13 homes, in 6 different cities. Not just traveling from place to place homes. Full on having to pack up my books and clothes and art supplies and mattress homes. I craved disorder and shunned stability in hopes that I’d find truth and purpose in this state of constant change. Staying put meant I had to commit, not just to a location, but to myself. When you’re constantly on the move, you don’t have time to dissect and truly, deeply discover the essence of your being. I was scared to find out that I wasn’t talented and that I was incapable of anything meaningful, and so I ran.
I ran for so long.
But pain follows you.
It followed me from Waterloo to Kingston, from Ottawa to Europe, and back. There were even pieces of it lingering in Port Hope.
Until I stopped moving, I couldn’t handle any of the mental or physical trauma I’d experienced. It was so easy to avoid.
And the fear never leaves. It's there, always. I'm wary of appearing too excited about this next move because a little piece of me still holds onto my old instinct to flee. It's struggling with accepting this new truth; the fact that I finally belong somewhere...permanently.
Now, here in this moment, I smile instead of crying, and I stay put when I couldn’t easily run away.
Our journey is our greatest teacher. Trust your journey. Travel. Move. But don’t be afraid to stop. Don’t be scared of committing to a place and yourself. Explore who you were, make amends, and grow into the person you were meant to become; because that’s our purpose and the destination all roads lead us to.
2020. The ominous new decade has finally arrived and I feel a wee bit compelled to write; alas, it's the only hobby that has sustained me for the last three decades and one of my most reliable survival tools. Words, and their formative power, are one of the few things I can count on.
When I was 15, half a lifetime ago and the same age as my current students, I didn't think I would reach this year. I knew that once 2020 rolled around I would be 30 and I could not quite grasp what that might entail. It was such a distant, unsubstantial, inconsequential number, because I held on to this notion that I would never have to face it. I would never have to deal with all of the strenuous shifts in my identity and my feeble grasp of reality. I would never have bona fide responsibility or ever have to face the complications of the aging process. Better yet, I would never have to know true failure or make choices that would dismantle, well, everything. I would be young forever and expire when my fragile heart was too weak to pump life through me. That's how I sensed it would go. That was the path I was ambling along. Little did I know that none of these mindless worries would matter and that the world was so much bigger than my narrow self-centred mindset lead me to believe. Growing up is not the worst thing that can happen to you, as our Mother Earth continues to remind us.
Watching people reflect on their last decade felt...inspiring, yet self-indulgent. Even now, I'm questioning the merits of this exercise and who it's for. Certainly for me and my own sanity, but who else? Why do we feel the desperate need to share and connect? Why are we comparing what we've achieved and overcome in ten years? Does it truly even matter when the world around us is burning up? Why are we so damn selfish and needy? Myself included. Let's just agree that no one has it easy. Life does not let up, ever. So let's reflect less on what we've dealt with, because we're all overcoming something. We need to strive to spend our time in more meaningful ways. We can do better.
2020. What will the next decade bring? I'm exhausted by the past, but equally horrified about the future, which puts me in these neat little present bubble of optimism punctured by darkness. I'm hopelessly floating upwards on an unpredictable path, determined to remain suspended a little while longer. I'm not ready to burst quite yet. None of us are.
My artistic output will be heading down the path of change, as it always does, and will continue to reflect the world as I see and understand it; in a state of turmoil and constant flux, laced with great expectations.