Notes on Nostalgia and Lightening Up

One morning this October, the internet reminded me of a sunrise in my first apartment 4 years ago. My bedroom, all windows, looked east. Fluoro pink, orange and specks of sky blue painted my entire view.

That picture, which I had taken while still in bed, sent me down a spiral of nostalgia for those sunrises and the days I spent in that apartment in my mid-twenties hitting snooze and typing on this same laptop.

It wasn’t the good kind of nostalgia, or maybe it just wasn’t a good day for me to see that photograph. Which is strange, because if 27 year old me knew that 4 years later I’d be here, doing the things I’m doing, I know she would have been all “fuck yes” and such. So why should I feel sad looking at the photographic connection between then and now?

The heaviness I felt for most of October could have had something to do with the rain that poured down over Sydney for weeks on end. It also could have had something to do with refusing to let go of my past whilst trying to piece together a new life here.

Whatever the reason, my facebook memories that day seemed to just add fuel to an already somber state of mind.

The rain was giving me permission to stay inside and put the brakes on. Stay inside and do what I always do when I don’t know how I’m feeling. In The Sound of Paper, a book that has remained in my possession through the years, Julia Cameron explains that writing allows you to meet yourself where you really are.

The day the internet reminded me of how fuzzy and pink my not so distant past was, all I could see were crammed bus rides and dirty city streets and the never-ending chore of unloading the dishwasher. I felt crowded, rushed, nostalgic. Everything unfinished. Everything sort of out of grasp.

“How are you?” felt hard to answer.

And when that’s the case, I hold onto a pencil and a notebook. My most recent writing muse Joan Didion has said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” 

I write it all out and then sometimes share it here.

The other thing I always run back to, and always helps me meet myself exactly where I am, is my yoga mat.

On the day I was reminded of that October sunrise 4 years ago, I almost didn’t go to yoga, because sometimes whiskey sours trump the 36-minute walk I have to the studio. But I made it there.  It sounds especially woo-woo, but in that particular class, it felt like there were all of these possible answers swirling around me and that I just needed to settle on one. “Everything you need is already inside of you,” they say. “They” usually being yoga teachers or spiritual gurus on Instagram. I’ve read and heard those words in so many ways, in numerous places.

I have learned that sometimes words lose their power when they are used too often. It’s why phrases turn into cliches. It doesn’t mean the words aren’t true, they may have just lost their sparkle.

I had run to my mat and what came to mind at the end of that class, the answer I grabbed onto in my subconscious, was “Lighten up.”

But even more forceful than that. Almost more like, “Lighten the fuck up.”

While not necessarily cliche, I wouldn’t call those words profound in any way. They definitely didn’t sparkle with wisdom. In fact, they sounded more like something a rough-around-the-edges uncle would say to cheer me up.

“Lighten up,” sounded too simple.

But I think simple is sometimes the very thing we need. I was taking everything so seriously. Just ask my boyfriend how mad I got when one night in October I had to eat a nectarine for dinner because a certain food delivery service didn’t have any drivers available and we were too drunk on whiskey to pick up our food from the Vietnamese restaurant.

Infuriated.

I needed to lighten up and I needed a kick in the ass.

So I decided to give it a shot.

After my “Lighten the fuck up” aha moment, I went for post-yoga cocktails instead of rushing home to meal prep. I went to Melbourne for a weekend of soul-nourishing chats with one of my fairy godmothers. I bought a dress. I organized a 40th birthday party. I went to life drawing again. I implemented “Fuck It Tuesdays.”

I came back to myself, again.

“Remembering what it means to be me, that is always the point,” Joan Didion also wrote.

Remembering that it’s not a Vietnamese restaurants fault that I’m tired and homesick. Remembering that it’s okay when things feel hard. Remembering that no one promised easy. Remembering that compared to many, my life has been an emblem of ease.

How is it that this game of lost and found with myself keeps occurring? It’s not an answer that I’ve landed on, or even expect to. Too many women older and wiser have taught me that this kind of soul-searching journey is a never-ending one.

I get distracted by things. Like love, like annoyance, like being 27 and partying. By meeting incredible people, by dating not so incredible people, by ideas, by possible futures, by someone offering me an Aperol.

There is so much enthusiasm, and life, in the things that distract us. I think distractions are good. I think they are largely where life happens, and where it takes interesting turns.

But I’ve been considering, ‘When the distraction subsides, what is left?’

I’ve been thinking about what remains – what we hold onto, no matter what.

The things that make the cut when we reread Marie Kondo and decide to once again, purge the closet and throw away everything that doesn’t spark joy. The items that I stuffed into my suitcase last January. The websites most frequently visited. The curiosities that never cease to make a spot for themselves in my head. The friends we call no matter the time.

Despite circumstantial changes, despite following sparkly things down winding roads, I always seem to come back to certain things. And by things I mean literal objects like certain books and my Oma’s cheese knife. Because they point the way to what matters most to me. And also untouchable things like desires, interests, and the goals that get written down year after year. Because they also point the way.

It’s not that growth isn’t there, or that the distractions aren’t worthwhile. They are in fact, everything. Everything happened for me when I hit pause on my life and got distracted by a stunning coastal walk. Answers, and a hunky long-haired bloke flooded my way.

Maybe what happens is that the winding roads, detours and pauses serve a larger purpose than we realize when we’re stuck in them. Maybe the more of those we live through, the more clear we get on the things that always remain. The parts of us that never stop whispering – this. 

The things, people, curiosities and lessons that never fade away. Are those the answers, always waiting to be found again? The things that appear when everything else gets quiet. When the party is over and I’m home.  When I get off the bus and breathe again.

November has felt so different. Things are looking pink and fuzzy again. They feel, unsurprisingly, a little lighter.

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Things I Wonder at 31: A List.

I wonder a lot about selfishness, self-fullness, and self-understanding.

Sometimes I feel crippled with love and empathy for strangers. Like this bartender last week who was new on the job and didn’t know how to make the over-priced, special-edition, fancy-ass old fashioned I asked for. He was getting in the way of everyone else and drowning in nervousness and I just wanted to save him. And change my drink order.

I don’t want anyone in this world to feel lonely. And then an hour later I want nothing more than to be left alone.

Lately I wonder why I didn’t appreciate the massive garden I had at my disposal from the ages of 0 to 11. I recall tulips, mint, an umbrella tree, and daffodils. If only I could go back, my 31-year-old self would never leave that backyard. I would ask so many questions. I would take so many pictures.

My Dad always had us looking for the first signs of spring. Sure I got excited as an 8-year-old but not really compared to how I react now when I see a baby leaf or an orange tree.

I spent last Saturday night making homemade energy balls.

I spent this Friday night at yoga.

What is happening?

I sometimes think about how I’ll never get to live under the same roof as my parents and my siblings again. All of us together for dinner every night. And if I think that thought for too long I get really sad.

I wonder if I’ll have a baby.

What if I don’t want a baby until it’s too late?

I wonder if I get tired more easily like everyone warned would happen, or if I’m just so much more protective of my time, knowing that some dingy bar with overpriced drinks is not where happiness resides. (But sometimes it definitely is.) Is it just that different things energize me now? I’d rather see the ocean at 7AM than a dance floor at 1AM. I want to sip bourbon and draw every night, like how I used to love sipping a coffee and writing all morning. Some days the big city life is losing its sparkle. Other days it makes me feel alive.

I feel things changing, and wonder if I am a cliche.

I wonder if anyone else feels the sting of nostalgia looking through old photographs of not very long ago, and then imagines what this activity will feel like 30 years from now. I don’t think I could handle the swell of emotions I imagine will be circling inside my chest.

I wonder why I’ve been so lucky.

I look at my resume and feel excited, and then I look at my bank account and feel despair.

I miss the sound of the garage door opening knowing my Mom was arriving home. I miss the knocks on my bedroom door.

I miss seeing my best friend every day at school and then every day after school and all weekend long. I miss early 2000’s hip-hop and my first car.

I miss letting my other best friend into my apartment years later, watching her put a glass bottle hidden in a brown paper bag on my kitchen counter. I miss my friends navigating my kitchen like it was their own because they were over all the time.

At 31 I wonder if it’s strange to miss all these seasons of my life while at other times I feel like I’ve just begun.

I think about what my parents must have been like in their twenties and wish so much that I could remember. I think about my parents in a completely different way altogether. I worry about them. I wish I could stop us all from aging. I curse myself for not paying more attention to all the time we had together, just like how I curse myself for not noticing the plants in that garden.

I recognize that who I am is somehow both evolving and remaining very much the same.

I wonder if all this self-understanding is getting me somewhere.

There’s more but it’s 8:32pm and I’m 31 – so goodnight.

XOXO

Observations

From my iPhone notes and my journal.

August 18, 2018

The most meaningful conversation I had tonight was with an alcoholic. When my chin was in my hand and my eyes were scanning his for bullshit and we were talking about why human beings seek the answers they seek, I actually cared about that moment.

Everything else tonight was so fucking boring.

The “What do you do?” and the “How long have you been together?” and the “How long are you studying for?” Nothing below the surface and nothing that had me blink an eye.

Give me the person who is willing to read me the letter he wrote his mom because he’s completely messed up her life. Give me the person who also does not care about “the footy” because we are too into our conversation about death.

I just wanted to hear everything he had to say and I don’t care if I ever see the rest of them again. All the ones with their lives together.

Nothing left to lose is so much more interesting and somehow I left feeling like everyone else was bullshitting.

This is just an observation.

Maybe I just like dirty laundry.

July 20, 2018

After reading a Man Repeller post (still my favorite place on the internet) I followed a writing prompt and it lead me here:

“What season are you living in right now? What can you nurture today?”

I recently made this little list and all it said was: design school. write the book. yoga yoga yoga. almalfi coast.

It was short and perhaps the most focused little list of goals, or dreams, or things-to-do, that I had written in a very long time.

But that little list is the season I’m in.

Studying fashion feels like I’m tying together all of these things I’ve already dipped my toes into except rather than looking at merchandisers and designers and having tremendous job envy, I’m just one step closer to always looking forward to my Monday’s. In regards to the Almalfi Coast, it’s been a decade since I bought a book about it and I still haven’t gone, so it is time to get it on the calendar.

But in regards to writing a book, this big piece of unfinished homework, I have a lot of thoughts.

I never rushed through to publish it in the swirl of my late twenties when I was very focused on being a “writer.” Working and writing was different than just, writing. This thing that I had always done alone in my apartment. On my bed or on my couch. In tears or in love. And I will always do it. That I know for sure.

If I had committed to finishing and publishing my book at say, 27 or 28, it would have been a collection of funny dating stories. If a publisher had picked it up, it may have been marketed like the book a friend had been given by her step-mother. I can’t remember the title but “Unlucky in love,” was the theme. The cover was of a blonde girl in a white dress with her head in her hands and hot pink lipstick on.

That’s not the book in my heart.

There’s this assimilating happening. I have something to say and I’m still writing and sorting and restructuring and journaling to find out the answer. 

I am in this season of letting it all sink in. With a lot of cutting and pasting and rambling happening in between.  Thus far I’m glad I’ve given it a chance to evolve and morph and blossom into something more than it could have been otherwise. One iPhone note, one old journal entry, one “undo” button at a time. 

Or maybe I’m just procrastinating. I write about my own dirty laundry. Do I really want a hardcover around it all?

For some reason the answer is yes. This dream isn’t going anywhere.

All of these things that I always said I wanted to do – live beside the ocean, go back to school, write a book – I suppose I am in the season of doing them. I am right in the middle.

June 3, 2018

I think I have landed somewhere very important. At this space of focus, not on other people’s checklists – just my own. With the ocean down the street, a printed off draft of a book, a drawing portfolio, and a flight back to a Canadian summer, I feel like I’ve come back to myself. Or found myself. However one looks at it.

It’s nice to stop and stare for a while at the place one has found themselves in. The seasons go by too quick not to.

But note to self: Having my life together, scratching the thing off the to-do list, those things I get so focused on . . . they aren’t where the magic is.

The magic has always happened in the fumbling.

In the messing up, so to speak.

 

Love, Anyways

What do you want that you already have? – Danielle Laporte

Last January, like every January, I picked a word for the year. A nice big generic one called LOVE.

That’ll do, I thought!

And then I forgot all about it.

I wasn’t trying to fool the Universe or myself into thinking that if I picked the word “love”, romance would once again show up. I had grown rather exhausted by romantic love, and writing about it too.

I felt quite free from its grips even. 30 had brought with it a wave of “Fuck it!” – or maybe I was just a sucker for the marketing of all those newly published books with “fuck” in the title.

What I mean is that I didn’t pick the word ‘love’ because I wanted to be someone else’s girlfriend.

I meant that I wanted to make decisions, tiny and large, for the love of them. No more obligation, no more wasting time watching or reading something I wasn’t all that into. I wanted to do things because I loved doing them, period.

Once I was satisfied with my intention for 2017, I didn’t think much more about it because I was too busy having fun beside the ocean and falling in all kinds of…love.

January suddenly turned into April and I had to come home to Calgary for a whole lot of logistical reasons. Visas and property ownership and bridesmaid duties and such. What I really wanted was to keep sitting on my favourite cliff in the Australian sun. What made it all so much more heart-wrenching was that to my great surprise, when I really truly wasn’t looking for it, romantic love had sucker punched me in the gut like I hadn’t known before.

I really didn’t want any of it to end. I had never wanted time to stop so badly.

But reality called and I had no choice but to answer.

I sat in a lawyer’s office signing documents to take possession of a condo that had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now felt like a massive weight strapped to my ankle. And my home town wasn’t exactly bursting with job opportunities.

It took me exactly 10 days of feeling sorry for myself in between IKEA trips with my Mom to snap out if it.

I learned something very important in the eight months I spent at home last year.

I learned to love what was in front of me.

This. Counts. Too. I told myself.

No matter what was waiting for me down the road, I wasn’t going to treat that chunk of time like it was a means to an end. Like it was just a little blip in between getting back to loving life. I would never be that ungrateful.

It didn’t mean I couldn’t be sad, because for a little while I was.

But when I flipped my perspective on its head, what happened was that I loved those eight months at home so much more than I thought possible.  Way more than I imagined I could sitting in that lawyer’s office last May. And all of the reasons why I loved them so much are recorded messily in a diary dated May 11th, 2017 – April 22nd, 2018 which I’ll cherish, always. Probably even more than the one written in the previous year where it had never been so easy to love where I was.

I learned to love what was in front of me, whether I liked it or not.

What a year ago taught me was really important – When things are harder than I’d like them to be I tell myself again that this counts too. 

I read a poem in university and to this day its message still rings little chimes of clarity in me. I have forgotten the poet and the title, but not what it meant to me. It was about how the past has a funny way of orbing into a perfect star. You can’t usually see it while you’re in the thick of it. It’s only after some time has passed that you can look back and see the perfection that was your existence.

Time will pass whether I want it to or not. I try and remember that I don’t want to wait for the future to see all of the gold that was surrounding me. That is surrounding me.

My word for 2018 is grounded. Originally I thought about that word in terms of feeling at home in Sydney again, in a new routine – all the surface level stuff.

I recently found a new yoga studio that I’m obsessed with. The word “grounded” has been uttered in every class I’ve been to, and I get goosebumps every time. Maybe yoga teachers always say this word and I’m just hearing it differently. Maybe I’ve always had this capacity to love what was in front of me and this last year just helped me feel it differently.

I was far from grounded early this year as I went from the snowy forests of Alberta to the hot sands of Mexico to the even hotter sands of Sydney, finally back in the place my soul wanted to be.

Adjusting to life here again has been harder than I thought. But what I do feel grounded in is my decision to love it anyways, even the hard days. I won’t wait for some unpromised future to love what I already have. xo

A Birthday Rant.

I entered my thirties a couple of weeks ago.

I kept being asked how I felt about it. “You must have some thoughts,” a friend prompted me over pizza on the eve of my celebrations.

I wasn’t shy to admit that there was this new kind of panic surfacing, one I had yet to experience in the glorious booze induced decade that was my twenties. That forever young attitude suddenly felt fleeting. But in my center, I still felt calm. I knew I was going to be okay, more than okay, but I still needed to remind myself to breathe – breathe and remember everything I had done, loved, and learned.

The last twenty-four months or so has sometimes felt like running towards an invisible finish line. The finish line being this particular birthday, one that included a whole lot of expectations that sounded like, “Time to grow up now,” or, “You should have x by now.”

But I was expecting those feelings, and I also know better than to let my mind wander down the dark hole of, “Where did I go wrong?” just because life doesn’t look like how I thought it would.   

I thought surely by now there would be big pay cheques and an unshakable confidence. But I actually think I need my friends and family even more. I’ve let go of the idea that I have to fake it til I make it and act like a proper grown up when what I really feel like doing is being honest and saying, “I feel lost.” I still call my Mom and ask her stupid questions about cooking chicken. The stock market still confuses me. And I still can’t decide if I want bangs or not. What I do have at thirty is a whole lot of freedom and choice, which is what I had at eighteen too, but this time I’ve got a swack of life lessons to add to the decision making. Like, “Remember what happened last time you cut your own bangs.”

What I wasn’t expecting was the plethora of people who have commented on how I look.

If one more person tells me, “You look good for thirty,” I’m going to lose my shit. Or at least go find someone else to talk to. I watch their eyes scanning my face for lines and looking my body up and down, God knows what for.

It’s the obsession with youth and perfection that I’m beginning to see more clearly that is bothering me. Every year there’s another piece of myself that I could be “enhancing” – the faking of cheekbones, the drawing in of eyebrows, and since when is a good side-boob is thing??? Now that I’m in my thirties, the attitude seems to be that everything is going downhill and I’ll be lucky if I can pull off said side-boob. 

I think this attitude is ignorant and an insult to every other decade we’ll be lucky enough to see and live through. Tell me I look happy, or radiant, or that I seem more like myself. Because those feelings are what I want to chase, not a face with no laugh lines. Or, maybe I look haggard because I’m probably really tired from all of the wine I drank the night before having FUN. But stop telling me I look good for thirty as if I should have just morphed into some unrecognizable version of my former self.

I fucking love the sunshine. The wrinkles are coming and so are many more sunny vacations. I hope I’ll be so lucky. 

The annoying and cliche panic about turning this age has subsided and there’s this deeper knowing inside of me, residing somewhere in my rib cage, that feels incredibly contented. I suppose where I’ve ended up is this place where I’ve realized I can make my own To Do List, and that I already have been all along. It’s that cool aha moment where you realize you already are so many of the things you wanted to be. And also, I’m never going to tell another female that she looks good for her age. 

Rage-inducing back-handed compliments aside, thirty does feel really good, in case you’re wondering. 

The best part about that forever young attitude is the energy of it – feeling like the world’s your oyster. I think it still is and can be for a long, long time. And it’s an even better feeling when you know enough about yourself to decide whether you even like oysters. 

Thank you to all of the inspiring females in my life who are in decades far beyond mine, still living and dreaming and having a ball,  including my wax lady who reminded me last week, “You’re still a fucking baby.”

Thank you for just being whatever you want to be, no matter the number of candles on your cake.  

Let Go/Let’s Go

It’s been seven months since I landed in this beautiful bustling city and about eleven months since I decided to ignore all of the reasons why it made more sense to stay where I was. Reasons such as dream job, nice boyfriend, Persian cat, two bedroom condo.

Eleven months ago on a beach in Mexico I decided a couple of things.

  1. I didn’t have to be, do, or have anything by any particular age.
  2. All of the limitations I believed I had holding me to the spot were only limiting if I let them be.

“I’m moving to SYDNEY,” was the result. Less than a year later the only thing I still have from that nice list of reasons is the cat, except probably not even that because I’m pretty sure my Dad isn’t going to give him back.

Last year taught me a lot about the art of letting go. I thought breakups and quitting jobs were hard, but they’re a piece of cake compared to how emotionally drained I felt breaking up with my sparkly, cozy, inner city condo.

She was perfect. What the hell was I doing selling her to some (really annoying and petty) stranger? Because it wasn’t exactly a seller’s market, someone I knew suggested I actually write out a goodbye letter to #905 as a way to begin energetically letting my home go.

Another excuse to write down my feelings?  I accept.

It reads like I’m breaking up with my first love. Here are some censored excerpts to save myself some embarrassment:

“Letting you go is not an act of boredom or dislike. I am not “over you.” You are not too old, too young, or falling apart. Letting you go is an act of dreaming again, of moving forward. I love where I am – you, my friends, my walk to the places I know and love. It’s not that I’m searching for better – how does it get any better than this!? It’s that I feel ready to go see what else I might be great at, see what else I want to do with this life that I get … It was love at first sight but I’m happy we are parting for such a great and spontaneous reason. I will always remember your light, your space, your city lights, your sunny mornings, shot gunning beers on the deck, late nights falling for x,y & z, girl talks on the couch, work done and not done at the table. You watched me grow up and chase some pretty big dreams and date some pretty big jerks. I hope you fill others up with as much light and inspiration as I have received from you … Goodbyes are hard. I could keep writing forever. (and I did – I don’t think I’ve ever written a real human being a letter that long). I could live here forever too. I will never, ever forget you….” 

Ha!

Of course it had nothing to do with a piece of property and everything to do with change.

On the other side of the courage it took to leave it all behind, I can say it’s been harder than I ever expected, and also more incredible.

Ugly crying in my driveway saying goodbye to previously mentioned boyfriend. Staring at the ocean thinking how happy I was just to get to live after hearing about a tragic death at home. Spending my lunch breaks and days off on a beach. It’s been a new kind of roller coaster. I’ve never felt so blissed out and lonely at the same time. But I’ve also never felt so loved and missed.

I usually put more emphasis on a new year. I usually write more. I usually have more to say. But this time I didn’t feel like putting the pressure on.

One particularly breezy walk home in October I remember thinking that I wanted to stop thinking and planning so much. “I want life to just throw me around a little,” I said to a friend.

Think less, feel more. Less goals and less screen time.

Eight years ago when I was in New Zealand, a family friend who I had spent a lot of time with that week said to me, “You’ve reminded me that being happy isn’t hard.” Whenever I start to feel a little sad or a little lost I think about that moment. Just like I’ll never forget 905, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sunny drive home with him and that conversation. There are certain moments that hold a lot of weight in one’s life and that was one of them for me.

My overwhelming feeling about 2017 is as simple as that. In all the courage it takes to make change, or be at change’s mercy, or let life throw you around, being happy about it doesn’t have to be hard.

Change doesn’t have to mean you don’t love where you’ve been or where you are. It’s just a chance to see what else and who else and where else you could love in this lifetime.

Personally, I have never had less of a clue about what my life could look like in a year. I don’t even know if I’ll get the cat back. But a year ago today moving to a new city was the furthest thing from my mind, and it’s been the best thing that 2016 gave me.

So. 2017. Throw me around some more and I’ll remember to be happy about it either way.

May everyone’s year be filled with more happiness and surprises than your reasons. And here’s the song that got me writing this. XO

Real Talk: Creativity

Real Talk: Creativity

I was recently thinking about the worst advice I ever listened to, which sounds like a pretty negative downward spiral to go on, but this story ends good.

What brought this on was my noticing of some serious job envy going on inside of me the last year or so. This was strange because I actually really liked my job, especially when I was making money writing, which I always thought was what I wanted. But whenever I would come across an artist, or a graphic designer, or an interior designer, or an illustrator, or a photographer, or anyone that did anything related to the visual arts, I would be all like, “I want that!!”

The shitty advice that I listened to came from my art teacher nearly ten years ago, God bless him. I know it was spoken with good intention, but I wish I had been like a typical teenager and not taken anything my superiors said seriously.

I was eighteen, and he had just given me an A+ in his highest level class. I was about to meet with a career counsellor and decide what I was going to do for post secondary. 

“Don’t go to art school Katie.”

Huh?

He elaborated and told me to enroll in something that would make it easier for me to find a job after university.

So what did I do? I majored in English Literature.

Just as useless.

But nevertheless my art teacher (and parents/friends/relatives) approved because at least if I majored in a core subject, I could surely land a job as a teacher, something my art teacher (and parents/friends/relatives) all thought I would be very good at.

I liked the idea of having summers off, but that’s about all that excited me when I envisioned my life ten years down the road standing at the front of a classroom.

I am not belittling our educators – I applaud them. It just wasn’t what was calling me.

It may have taken me a decade, but I feel myself circling back to what was tugging at my heart all those years ago. Art, creativity, paint brushes, colour, writing, texture. 

I wanted a studio, not a desk.  

It took me a decade to get really clear on something important to me. I was red wine drunk sitting on my couch in my condo for one of the last times before it sold. I was with a friend talking about my strange job restlessness when it hit me like a blinding flash of the obvious. I thought I was being really profound so I even typed up my words in my phone and quoted myself.

“I don’t want to be the one managing other people’s stuff, or critiquing other people’s work, or writing about other people’s creations. I want to be the one creating the stuff.” – Katie Tetz

I was drunk, and incredibly clear.

It’s a deceptively simple thing to want, and really easy to fall astray from.

Managing people was where the “status” and money was. I couldn’t be satisfied with being a visual merchandiser in retail; that wasn’t good enough. Writing about other people’s companies, creations, and chasing celebrity gossip – that’s where my words could pay the bills. And I couldn’t call myself a writer if I couldn’t pay my bills.

But that’s not what I truly wanted either. 

Which brings me to what spurred this rant – another Real Talk question.

IMG_5949

I’ve read a lot of good this-changed-my-life-books, but my newest favourite is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Eat, Pray, Love lady).

This book is a creative person’s dream.

She’s (almost) totally got me convinced to let go of the external results that can once and awhile come from a person’s creativity. She makes an amazing argument that those results are not the point. I say almost because I guarantee that if I write my book and some big mean critic tells me it’s shit, I’ll be a little upset.

Of course I like it when someone tells me they like my blog, but that validation cannot be why one makes stuff. Of course it would be great to make a living through art, but reading Big Magic left me feeling like it just doesn’t matter. And because it doesn’t matter,  I won’t feel like I’m not a “real writer” until I cash a giant book advance. I won’t feel like I can’t pick up a paint brush just because I didn’t go to art school. This book reminded me that the only way we can live a happy creative life is to do it for the love.

I’m not sure exactly what all this job envy is pointing to, but when I look at my coworker’s photography, or my cousins paintings, or when I snuck upstairs to a distant relatives art studio in Germany three summers ago…something tugs at my heart. Every time. Without fail. And while my unintentional career in retail has it’s ups and downs, the one thing I continue to love is the thing that lets me play with colour and design and texture, visual merchandising.

It’s been a decade and I can’t shake it. I like being the one creating the stuff. Period.

So as much as I wish I hadn’t listened to my art teacher’s shit career advice, I know better now. And I hope I’ve lived enough to recognize that advice next time I hear it. Of course it won’t be in those exact words, but the message is always the same: That thing you want, whatever that thing is, is only worth pursuing if it’s going to make you money.

What a lie.

I like Elizabeth Gilbert’s thinking: “We still have enough space left in our civilization for the luxuries of imagination and beauty and emotion – and even total frivolousness. Pure creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable. It’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe.”

I am finishing a book this year and I bought some paint brushes a few weeks ago. If I ever sell a book or have an art show, that’s cool, and it’s also okay if those things don’t happen.

But if they do, I will most definitely be sending my old art teacher an invite.