As a woman, there have been countless times that I have felt unsafe. Walking down the street results in catcalling, and I'm always looking over my shoulder because of that time I was almost raped in an alley in broad daylight. I've been catcalled, groped, and been on the receiving end of lewd comments or sexual propositions from coworkers and bosses--one notable time I was told multiple times that I'd need to "earn" my raise by performing fellatio, and the HR department didn't even write down my complaint because she was sure that I was lying. I've been taught from a young age that men are inherently bad, and that they shouldn't be trusted until they prove themselves. I've been taught to be wary of my friend's fathers and brothers, to never enter a closed-door meeting with a man unless there is a witness present (or I record the session). I've been at after hours functions where harassment is blamed on 'too much beer', and I've had wives tell me it's my fault their husband openly groped in public.Read More
I don't wake up early and make pancakes before school; instead, mornings in the Fisher home are a mad scramble to get everyone out the door looking moderately presentable. Breakfast often consists of drinkable yogurt in the car, maybe accompanied by a muffin or an apple if we think to grab them. There are no bento boxes in our house; my 8-year-old daughter makes her lunch every morning, much to her own chagrin. She is also responsible for folding her clean laundry and putting it away in her drawers, cleaning up after the pets, and bathing herself. Dinner is our most organized meal of the day, but we almost always consume it on the couch while watching an episode of Murdoch Mysteries or Doctor Who.
Our house does not consist of curated bookshelves, and lord knows our living room does not belong in a magazine--with a piglet and a dog running around, it's hard to keep the blankets folded and the floor free of chewed up toys or bones. Little A's room has no tipi, bunting, or even matching furniture. Her walls are covered in posters of Ever After High and Descendants characters, canvases she has painted herself, and a cheesy photo of a kitten that she adores. Her bookshelves are overflowing, and I have yet to figure out how she organizes her library.
Rarely do I wear makeup, and 95% of the time my hair is coiled into a bun. My fashion sense is a mixture of classic, trendy, and "hey, this is clean!", and my shoe aesthetic runs from Converse low-tops to strappy sky-high heels with gold details. My daughter has inherited my laissez-faire approach to fashion and requires reminders to brush her hair each day. She loves to dress up and shop for clothes, but most mornings she pulls on her favourite pants and t-shirt in her wildly unimpressed, still-half-asleep state that I completely relate to.
It's taken a long time for me to accept the person that I am. My anxiety and OCD result in me fixating on odd details when cleaning, such as the order of books on a shelf or how my plants are arranged on my dresser, while entirely ignoring an over-flowing laundry basket or a stack of mail on the counter. My obsession with organization clashes with my eternal exhaustion, resulting in a constant internal struggle with myself. On a good day I will pull myself together enough to put on eyebrows and coordinate an outfit more exciting than dress pants and a sweater, getting everyone to school and work with time to spare. Then, after being a productive and happy member of the workforce, I'll get everyone home and fed without issue. On a bad day, however, everyone is late, someone has forgotten their lunch or snack, and dinner is nothing more exciting than ramen noodles--and everyone has an early bedtime.
I used to beat myself up for not living up to the standards that I, and society, have decided are the norm; each day that I showed up at work without a full face of makeup and a head of perfectly tousled curls would have been hiding in my office, afraid that I'd be labeled a slob or lazy. Each parent in the drop-off line that was statuesque and beautiful, their child with intricately braided hair and a trendy outfit, carrying their carefully-planned bento box lunch, made me feel like I was stealing my daughter's idyllic childhood by not pushing myself harder to meet these arbitrarily-drawn finish lines.
Instead of competing with these other women, and punishing myself for failing, I'm cheering them along from the sidelines--wearing leggings and a hoodie, eating microwaved non-organic popcorn. I'm much happier here, and isn't that the point of life?
Not every day will be easy, or lighthearted, or even happy. Some days are hard, lonely, and scary. No matter what kind of day you may be having, I hope you find some sliver of comfort, some way to smile even though you feel like crying. I hope that you find someone to love you, and care for you, even when those are the two hardest tasks on the planet. But most of all, I hope you love yourself no matter what may come, and that you find peace amid the storm.
There is just something about going home.
Don't get me wrong, I love my life in Alberta. I have a wonderful support system comprised of family and friends, and I really have grown to love living in a quiet town outside of the big city. This is where my current home is, and I am happy with that.
But, when you grew up somewhere else, nothing beats the feeling of going home.
Back to the place where you raced your bikes with your friends, and spent hours searching for the perfect rocks on the beach; back to the quiet, tree-lined streets that you walked every day in your youth. Back to that cluster of rocks where you would sit for so many hours, just to watch the ocean and listen to the sound of the waves hitting the shore. It feels like another lifetime, one that couldn't possibly be part of your own history because it was so normal.
Going back to those places as an adult, full of life experiences that you could never even imagine as a naive twelve-year-old girl, can only be described as a soulful experience. Seeing the house that you grew up in with new eyes, simultaneously watching the ghosts of years past mingle with the reality of the day. The new owners ripped out the carefully planned gardens in the front yard, where I remember my mother spending hours cultivating a very precise configuration of Bachelor Buttons and daffodils and tulips. This memory is superimposed over the current owner's generic, flowerless bushes like a poorly Photoshopped image; however strange and off-putting the reality may be, I found a certain comfort in knowing that the memory was mine, shared with no one else.
A few weeks removed from the experience, I'm just now able to find the words that even remotely reflect the feelings that I had while I was in Oak Bay. I've never been able to really share my past with anyone--sure, I have shared funny anecdotes with people or spoke of my school or extracurriculars. But to truly share this part of my life with someone for the first time, to physically walk them through the places of my youth was an incredible experience for me.
I just wish I'd had the words to express it at the time.