We spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are. Life is a never-ending path of discovery and questions. Some get lucky and figure out who they are, and what they want to do, early on in life. Not everyone is so lucky. Some take decades to finally feel at home in their own skin.
It took me over 30 years to be comfortable being myself. Being me. Embracing all that was quirky and odd, accepting that I don’t always like what everyone else likes. And then one day the sky fell and I got lost again. Suddenly, I realized, I didn’t know who I was anymore. Nothing I used to love to do was holding any interest for me. I was apathetic to EVERYTHING. I wasn’t reading. Wasn’t crafting. Wasn’t happy at all.
Going downtown five days a week wasn’t helping. After March 27, 2013, I really didn’t want to be in the city anymore. I never liked the city much anyhow, I love seeing the sky. There’s little sky viewing in downtown Montreal. All tall buildings. And as much as I love the people I work with, the job itself was making me feel…grey. Blank. Drained. There was no joy in staring at my computer all day scheduling meetings, or coordinating meetings, or taking minutes.
And so this summer I had to think. Think hard. What needed to change in my life? What could I do to stop this downward spiral into sadness so strong I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
Months of pros and cons lists happened both mentally, and in my journal. I spoke about what I could do with my husband, and my therapist (the same one helping me through all the PTSD stuff). There were sleepless nights where I just felt so lost and trapped that I couldn’t even close my eyes. The darkness was too bright and too deep.
At some point I looked at job postings online and saw something closer to home, not in town. And it was as if someone had filled me with air. I could breathe again. I didn’t feel weighted to the ground with lead. Something clicked – I needed to be out of downtown. I needed to eliminate that part of the equation. That’s when the epiphanies started, of course my job is downtown, but what if I quit my job? What if I took this opportunity to actually stop doing something that was draining the life from my soul (dramatic sounding, I know. But I wasn’t even READING anymore!) and turning me into a drone, and started to do something I loved? Suddenly the people I had worked with for almost 11 years weren’t enough to keep me going into a job I didn’t love anymore. But leaving those people? People who had become as close as family? THAT wasn’t an easy decision.
Even more so, leaving meant I had to leave my boss. A woman I have wished was my own sister for years. A woman I adore, and learned so much from, and admire and just…adore. It was like breaking up. It was not easy. It is not easy.
But I did it.
The first week of October I gave notice. I think my heart was in my mouth. My hands shook, my stomach clenched, and my head was spinning. But I did it. One of the hardest things I have done.
Leaving the security of a place I have been for 15 years isn’t easy, and it wasn’t a whim. But it was time. My last day of work was Halloween (because, of course it was!), and my 15th anniversary at McGill was October 28. My first four and a half years were at the bookstore, and then the last 10 years and seven months were in the Dean’s office in Music. I literally spent a quarter of my life at that faculty, in that job (though it did evolve over the years).
They had a Halloween party for me on my last day. My heart was overflowing with emotion. I don’t like emotion. I was shaking like a leaf, but I managed not to cry. I cry at night as I try to fall asleep. It’s how I roll. There was so much love though. And I’m two days into being home and I miss everyone so much.
However, I am ready for new challenges. I am THIS CLOSE to finishing my Book Publishing diploma at Ryerson University, and I am desperate to work with books. I miss books. SO MUCH. I want to sell and publicize children’s books. My entire being vibrates with the desire to do that. To talk books. Read books. Sell books. And if I didn’t make the leap and change now, I’d have chickened out over time and just become resentful of missed opportunity, wasted passion, and bitter about a job I wasn’t getting any joy from. I couldn’t live like that. I can not live like that.
So I made this big, terrifying, life-changing decision and I don’t know what’s next. I just know that it needed to be done. Once I realized this what what I needed to do my entire body relaxed. I read 11 books this month – and I hadn’t read nearly that much yet this year. You have no idea how much stress and anxiety dissipated once I realized what I needed to do. Instead of being anxious about not knowing what’s NEXT, I lost anxiety I didn’t realize I was holding on to about staying as is.
No one who knows me would ever claim I was a fan of change. As a child I couldn’t handle the smallest of change. I remember having a clock-radio that I loved that died and I couldn’t sleep for a few weeks once I had a new one next to the bed because it WAS NOT THE SAME. The world was off-kilter. The air was too sharp and jagged. The cocoon of my room was DIFFERENT. And that was not good. And I’m pretty sure my parents would have bet cash money that I’d never move out of their house, and my room. And that I’d likely still be living there even though they sold the house. Change was not something I was ever able to handle. It’s amazing what a trauma and some other life-altering events can do to a person.
‘Cause, this is a Big Change, yo. This is me leaping into unchartered territory. This is so very un-Cat that it’s astonishing that I chose to make this decision. Astonishing that I even came up with this decision.
But I knew I needed to figure myself out again, and I needed to take a deep breath and make some Big Decisions as part of that. I can’t live in a grey world. I need that Wonderland that Alice found, as confusing and scary and dangerous as it might be at times. I can’t allow myself to shut down by mindlessly going through motions because it’s what’s expected of me. I need to do something with my life that I have passion for, that brings me joy. Books bring me joy, so that’s the path I’m following.
As for right now? I’m going to finish this copyediting course and look for another job. It might be a temporary one as I figure stuff out along the way, but temporary is just a blink of an eye and it’s easier to digest than “forever”. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m hopeful.
I’m feeling like someone I used to know a little better. Almost myself again. And that’s one step closer to Wonderland.
I love tattoos.
I know they aren’t for everyone. I know many people do not like them, but I do. I love being able to wear art on your body.
I also believe in being 100% certain that I want something etched into my skin for the rest of my life. Unlike piercings, you can’t just take off a tattoo and go on your merry way like it never happened.
Everything I have on my skin, I wanted, and still want. And all of my tattoos mean something to me.
Lately, I have been obsessed with words. Words are power. If words are tattooed into my body, they become part of me. They become me. My last two tattoos have been words. I already know what my next tattoos will be – more words. Not sure when. Probably within this year. I don’t know. But I know what words, and where they need to be. And those words will become part of my soul.
Corny, I know. Cliche, I know. But true.
My latest tattoo is a quote from Alice in Wonderland. I love that story, the Disney movie (animated one, not the newer live action ones – those are CREEPY.), and there’s something about Alice and Wonderland that has always resonated with me. I had originally thought the words enough, but then wanted to add in the Cheshire Cat in some way. All attempts to add the eyes and smile of the cat didn’t work out right. But thanks to my wonderful friend Emilie, and her ability to draw something from my horrid cut and paste, clip art photo, I was able to find the exact design I wanted. I wanted a collarbone tattoo, similar to those (now too) popular flying bird ones. But not birds. Nothing about birds says “Cat”. But I loved the simplicity of the tattoos. Mine isn’t as simple as those, but I think it matches me perfectly.
And yes, I am quite mad.
Especially these last few years.
Back in September, I also got a tattoo. This is the closest in time that I have ever gotten inked. But I had been working on that tattoo idea for some time. I knew I wanted a semicolon, but I needed something more. All I had worked out was, “breathe ; ” What came next was a struggle to figure out. Although as soon as I did figure it out, I knew I needed to get the tattoo right away.
I might be impulsive about getting my tattoos, but a lot of overthinking goes into what I want to put on my body. Thing is, because of my very strong intuition about things, I often need to get things done as soon as I know I need to do something. Thankfully my tattoos have been pretty small, so I didn’t have to wait too long for appointments.
The arm tattoo is a reminder that I can, and will, survive. Anything. I just have to remember to breathe, and my story isn’t over yet. I can rewrite, and restart. It will happen. I’m okay.
Words are my jam. They mean something to me. And as I was starting to write this post, I realized I hadn’t ever posted about the back tattoo I got in 2012 – which is where my obsession with words on skin began. In August 2012, I had a lyric from my favourite Sarah McLachlan song – Elsewhere, tattooed on my back. I wrote the text, and Emilie helped me with the design around the words.
All of my tattoos can be covered up if need be. I have stars on my wrist, a faerie silhouette on my leg, and a paw (and “pant”) on my ankle (my first tattoo – in memory of Kewpie after she passed away in 2002). My collarbone tattoo is the first one that’s going to be harder to conceal, but with a t-shirt on, you don’t even notice it. And really, unless I get another job where concealing tattoos is a rule, I’m not all that worried about them. They aren’t hurting anyone, and they are such a part of me.
I love tattoos. I love words. Makes sense to have the important words permanently inked into my soul. (As cheesy as that sounds.)
I wonder a lot about things. All things. Little things, big things. Things. I wonder. I ponder. I overthink. I stress, obsess, worry, and fret.
It’s part of who I am. Even if I might not know who I am at all times. And even that – who am I? – I tend to overthink. It’s a daily struggle.
I do about 95% of the things I do based on instinct. I’m a highly intuitive person, and I have learned over the many years of my life, that I should follow my gut instinct when making decisions, or I won’t end up happy. And happy isn’t really an emotion I was used to for a lot of my life. Once I worked out overthinking my instinct, I found I was in a happier place.
But that doesn’t mean I stopped overthinking things. Not at all. Even if I know, deep within me, the decision I want to make, I will still stress, obsess, fret, and think-think-think, over it under I have ripped it to shreds.
Sometimes I don’t follow my instinct. I think it’s wrong. It’s like when you a pretty sure the multiple choice answer is b, but you choose c at the last second and you get it wrong.
But in the inbetween between those two choices, you overthink the answer. You stress. You fret. You make your final choice and it’s…not the one you really wanted to make.
Sometimes I overthink my intuition. I question it. And I question myself.
And lately, there have been lots of questions, and a whole crap-ton of overthinking. I think… I think I’m not the same person I was three years ago. I mean, of course we all change, but in my case, I think the trauma changed parts of me that I have always taken for granted.
Obviously trauma can change a person. I mean, it’s trauma. Your entire world changes in an instant. What you know, and think you knew, shatters.
I find my reactions to things are no longer the same as they used to me. The me that I have grown so comfortable with has grown blurry. Am I who I thought I was? Am I becoming someone else? I question so many things lately. More so that I used to. Part of that is a loss of innocence, and naiveté that I still carried within me before the end of March 2013. I think I am feeling the loss of that most of all. And now I wonder about so much more than I used to. I wonder about trusting the world, and people around me. I wonder about me, and what I want out of life, and the world. And sometimes I wonder who I am supposed to be, because the me I was becoming was pushed off course. Have the parts of me I feel like I have lost stay lost? Will I regain those part of me?
What I will always have is my ability to overthink things into oblivion. Often that holds me back from life, and happiness.
I overthink. I worry. I obsess and stress. I wonder about things. I wonder what happens next. I wonder what the next chapter will reveal. I wonder what sort of stories I have left.
I overthink the possible endings. I overthink the current plot line.
I wonder. I overthink. I feel. I KNOW. I question.
And I just hope, that with all these thoughts running around my head, that I end up making the right multiple choice decision.
EDIT: this post ended up sounding way more morose than it is meant to be. I have been writing, writing, writing in a pen and paper journal a lot lately and this was more of a stream of consciousness based off of my journaling. Only way more emo-sounding.
Sometimes a lyric deeply resonates with you. You hear it and your entire world stops. The only thing you know is, “This. This is exactly what I feel but I couldn’t put words to it.”
And it’s amazing how much can change in a decade. And it’s strange what dates we cling to as we keep track of time. Some people have said I should let go of these dates, but I can’t. I don’t want to. They are a reminder of how much of the battle I have fought, and not lost.
Ten years ago today, I was 30. I had just been offered a new job a couple of days prior. Our apartment burned down in the evening.
Ten years ago. So much has happened since then. So many changes. I’m still in the same job I had just been offered. I’m now 40. I own a house.
We didn’t lose anything important in the fire. Shawn was home when the flat above us went up in flames. He was able to get out with the dogs. I came home early from work. We watched firefighters battle the blaze for over 4 hours. We didn’t know where we’d live.
But it worked out. We survived. We got stronger.
Three years ago today, the sky came crashing down. It has taken me a long time to realize that my trauma from this event isn’t just seeing a life end in front of me, in one of the most gruesome ways I can imagine, but also that it was because I could have died. Had I not stopped suddenly, that man would have landed on top of me, and I would not have walked away from this at all. Therapy helped me realize, and begin to deal with this.
My life did not end that morning, three years ago. I might have flash backs and panic attacks, and think I can feel something on me that I need to desperately clean off, but I survived.
The past three years have not been easy. I think a person can only be so strong. And I think experiencing something like this changes a person. Not always right away, and it can be subtle, but there’s change in a person.
There is change in me. I am not the same person I was before 8am on March 27, 2013. I am not. What wide-eyed innocence I still had within me, I think is gone. I don’t trust the world. I don’t trust the city.
Sometimes I worry I have lost my ability to trust ever again.
And mostly, I don’t know where my old self went. I’m not saying I wish I could always stay the same, because that’s not what I want. I want back the parts of me that scattered when the sky fell. I want the parts of me that still believed in whimsy, and magic, and innocence to come back.
I am no longer enjoying things I used to enjoy with my entire being. I hardly read anymore. I don’t seem to be able to find joy in much of anything. I am acting out of character in many ways, and I’m so very tired of…well, almost everything.
I have done so much work within myself, and I know there’s more to do. But I am tired. I am an expert on all things ME. I know myself inside, and out. I am so in tune with my entire being that I can’t tune it out.
I have come such a long way in ten years. I have come even further in the past three years. But somewhere since 2013 I lost parts of myself that I don’t think I will ever get back, and my heart breaks over that loss. Because I was finally starting to like ME. I was finally comfortable being myself.
And now, I don’t know who I am anymore. So much of me has changed. I don’t show it to the world. I don’t tell it to the world. I just know. I know myself well enough to know that who I am, who I was, who I have been, is different.
I have a lot more work to do as I try and figure myself out. What do I like? What do I love? What do I want to do? How much do I want to change, and how much do I want to bury deep down inside?
I didn’t die the day the sky fell, but I shattered into a million pieces, and some of those piece are still lost.