Each day, I wake up happy. Not this shallow, simplistic notion of happiness, but a deeply grounded contentment; a pleasure that evaded me for many years. Happy that I get to go to a job that I love, happy that I'm surrounded by like-minded people, happy that I'm not settling for less.
But then something happens. These strange thoughts try to fight their way in. These ideas that I'm not really doing what I should be doing, or that I've yet to achieve true success because everyone else is doing so much more.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
I then begin to think of time passing too quickly. I look at relics that hold memories, flip or click through pages of a life that no longer exists. A little person who dreamed of the world. Curly locks and gangly limbs, a future yet to be determined.
We grasp too desperately for the past sometimes. These places that we can no longer visit, these homes that no longer stand or the buildings that hold newer memories, ones we didn’t create. The faces begin to fade and so does the hope of a simpler time.
Or we dream unrealistically of the future, thinking of all of the things we want and imagine what life would be like once we've acquired them. Perhaps, finally, possession of these things would cease our desire for more.
A part of me feels as though I’m prolonging growing up because pieces of me are still so connected to that child sitting on a tree stump, blowing bubbles carelessly, thinking about nothing but the fun I wanted to share with my friends. Those times before technology, riding around freely on bicycles, hitting baseballs into the neighbours garden, sticking gum in my sister’s hair so that I could give her a hair-cut. Putting on fake nails made of play-dough, rooting through our dress up box and putting on plays, desperately hoping to one day be Sailor Jupiter.
Being a child is pure magic, pure imagination, or at least this is how most of us choose to remember it. Why do we lose this when we get older though? This sense of wonder that is so…just everything that life is not when the skin around your eyes start to crease. I think too much of what was or what could have been. I think of how I might have prevented certain things from happening, or how I might have achieved goals faster. Everything comes down to this abstract concept of time. This invisible thing that dictates our lives, this space that holds everything we know with each passing tick, each gradual stroke.
And then I go to work, a reality that centres me and rips me from these futile thoughts. Here, all of those doubts and musings pixelate, fading to white.
There are no thieves of joy here in the present. Only endless possibilities.
Today I woke up feeling a little sick to my stomach. I felt guilty and unworthy of good things. I'm in a state of constant worry that this good thing will be taken away from me and that everyone will finally realize I'm a fraud. Every time someone expresses their excitement for me, my initial instinct is to shut down their kind words. All I can think is who cares? It's no big deal. Let's not make a big deal out of this. Stop paying attention to me. It's no big deal. Really. What's happening in your life? That's way more interesting!
A quick deflect because when you spend a decade trying to hide, it is hard to be visible and accept it as natural. I struggle to accept the good things when they come.
On April 6th, 2017, I started writing about my art and my struggles with mental illness, and openly sharing it because I was tired of living with the shame I carried around on my shoulders. I was vulnerable and scared, but knew that the only way to heal was to start talking about my past (and present) without embarrassment, because really, what did I have to be ashamed of?
Today, April 5th, 2018, is the opening night of my first solo exhibition in an art gallery. My art…on the walls…of a real-life art gallery. This is real! Younger me is screaming in disbelief! And me today is crying with joy. I know that this might not sound like much, but…it is everything. My journey has literally, and metaphorically, come full circle - to the day! I went from sharing my journey openly and honestly to getting to reveal a collection of works that reflect the painfully hard work that went into my recovery. I am eternally grateful to all of the people who have stood by me through this process. There is never a right time to seek out help. You will always find excuses to avoid it and it is so much easier to just deal with it yourself than to actually acknowledge that you have a problem and let someone else take the wheel for a bit. There is no shame in leaning on others. You are not weak. You are so much stronger than you think.
The journey is never over, but I’m going to try to enjoy this moment and try not to feel like an imposter.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
It takes a village.