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On Friday June 24th 2016 I turned 30. My life thus far has been a real mix of good and bad just like everyone else’s. :)
I had a beautiful childhood. While I didn't have the best time socially at school and my teachers were hard on me for being introverted; I had some amazing neighbourhood friends, a sister that I have many fond memories with, I had lots of fun exploring my imagination and playing outside, and I had parents who supported and loved me.
My pre-teens were the start of a rough time ahead. I didn't fit in socially and was labelled a "slut" at the age of 12 (having no sexual experience whatsoever). My teacher said I would never amount to much and that I would never be a top student. I was an odd ball but I have some great memories from that time too. That's when I really started to explore my art as a way of expressing and releasing my emotions. I got into loud music and read a lot. I had a happy home and I think that was an important key to what got me by.
I wish I could say my early teens were better but unfortunately things got worse. My reputation as a slut spread far and wide in my small town and many young men tried to take liberties with me. When I didn't go along with it I was socially tortured. I quite honestly hated the world. My daily motto was, "life's a bitch and then you die". I became a punk/goth/grunge whatever you wanna call it .... I was dark and stormy inside and out. My peers and some of my teachers took pleasure in bombarding me with their most creative insults. I’ll always remember them calling me a “cat eating dyke”. The abuse got physical when few people were around but luckily it wasn’t anything I couldn’t push past. I escaped through my fantasy novels and released my rage and sadness with my music. But some positive came of those years too ... even though I'd been out of school for two months due to illness I still received 80s in ALL of my academic level courses. I was determined to prove my middle school teacher (and now many of my high school teachers) wrong.
In my late teens things started to improve. I changed schools and with time I even had some really kind and inspiring friends. I'd changed to an art school and I was delving into my artistic abilities more and more. Also, I not only maintained my high grades but improved them and was among the top of my class. Not to mention I was taking courses meant for students older than me. On top of all of that, I met a boy who loved me and was my best friend. These years I will cherish forever.
Then came my early University years ... which weren't great. My new found friends longed for bigger cities and new horizons (like I did). They left, I didn't. I went to the local University and again had trouble socially. The two boyfriends I had during this time did some major damage to my self-esteem; being cheated on and being constantly told I was not enough. A man I thought I loved once told me I needed to loose weight while I was being intimate with him. What a winner that guy was. I was young, foolish, and insecure. I continued to do well in school but University was much more challenging, and with two part time jobs, there was no longer any time for art or reading for pleasure. These years were tough.
My later University years are a mixed bag but I feel the good outweighs the bad. I'd decided to volunteer in Ecuador for a month and this had a huge impact on my life. I decided to end my relationship, to gain back my confidence, give up materialism, and find the right man for me. I wasn't looking for the most handsome man (although the one I found was very handsome), or the most exciting challenge; I was looking for someone who shared my interests and wanted the same things in life. It didn't take long before I found him (Darren Edward). What a blessing that was because I'd soon be hitting some turbulence. I was diagnosed with a small brain tumor. There were worrisome options but in the end I decided to live with it. At the time I was very sick and my professors, knowing the situation, understood if I was late, if I missed classes, if I had to go to the hospital, or if I had to leave to go to emerge ... but I suspect my peers couldn't see past the seemingly unfair treatment and (without asking me what was up) they'd begun to shun me. But things would soon look up! One of my most supportive professors suggested I go back to University (I'd already been there for a 5 year - two degree honours program) to get my Visual Arts teaching qualification. This advice also changed my life. I went to a new University, excelled beyond my wildest imaginings, continued to thrive in my relationship, and made many like-minded friends.
My first years in Toronto were pretty amazing! I had a good job working for Mitchell Sandham Insurance Brokers as the receptionist. I will always be grateful for that job since it got me here to Toronto, my beloved home. I loved working there and truly felt like the staff were a part of my family. I eventually left to teach at a private school. I absolutely LOVED my students and had so much fun teaching them. At this time I'd been struggling with body shame for a few years. Due to my medical problems and a bit of lifestyle change I had gained over 40 pounds. I hated my body. I felt like I wasn't good enough to feel beautiful. I tried so many things .... my weight went up and down ... but one thing didn't change. I hated myself EVERY. DAMN. DAY. When I began teaching and hearing my young female students talk about themselves in such a negative way I was shocked and determined to change myself first so I could inspire change in others. This led me down my path of truly loving myself and being able to see TRUE BEAUTY outside the limits and rules of our society.
This thought fueled me especially in my art career which was at this time part-time while teaching. Soon enough though my portraiture was gaining recognition and custom requests began to come in more steadily. I made the jump into a full time career and never looked back. This is where life really impressed me. I looked back at that poor teen I used to be ... the one who thought life was shit ... and felt so glad that I was never tempted to resort to suicide like so many other teens have. Because life changes in the biggest and most beautiful ways. I've traveled to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I've become a successful full time artist working in one of the biggest and most popular cities in the world. More importantly I've found a person who I love more than anything. He's my best friend and the first and only person to love me truly for the cuckoo person I actually am.
But hey, life's not perfect! I got really sick for a while and it took years to find out I have some sort of rare auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease and a brain tumor ... I felt like life just wasn’t fair. Some days were and still are hell. But I've come to accept that life isn't "all good, all the time" for anyone. We ALL have ups and downs, big things or small things, it's all relative to the individual. I think it's plain to see that I definitely have some negative shit I could think of and focus on and battle with in my mind every day if I wanted to. I have just as much right to the ol' "woe is me" mentality as anyone does but I don't let myself go there. I fight it. Sometimes it's a tough fight and I'll admit sometime I loose. But I do everything I can to focus on all the GOOD because it's also plain to see that I've been blessed too. Life throws a variety of things at all of us; it's the way we handle them and think of them that matters.
On my 30th Birthday I looked back on all of it and thought about how connected all of my "bad" things were to my "good" things. How if certain bad things didn't happen the good things may not have followed. SO in the end I'm thankful for ALL of my life and wouldn't change a thing. Everything led up to the incredible life I have now and the person I have become. I could not be more grateful. <3