What’s a superbly extreme joy I’ve felt in this past year? Beyond career achievements, beyond broadening my home into an extremely comfortable white-collar prison to accommodate my every whim… It was the unexpected time and availability to connect at a deeper level with my nieces clear across the country in Vancouver. Up until March 2020, I was barely talking to her (the second was born in April 2020) once a week, if lucky. Most usually it was once a month, on a weekend morning when our times matched up, her at breakfast, me lacking an improv class or shift to run off to.
I went from barely remembering what sleeping in felt like, to lazy mornings 7-days a week, entirely focused on 3-hour Facetime hangouts and exercise sessions with a preschooler. We chatted, sang, danced and made faces at each other, eventually dissolving into simply sitting in silence in each others company while she coloured and I attempted to add on a second-a-day to my daily planking. We were suddenly gifted with the unexpected benefits of my schedule being blasted to smithereens, and her having developed enough tongue and lip control for us to converse without her parents as my kiddie translator.
A daydream I’ve held since she was born, since I realized I could be the sole non-parent in her realm purely focused on making her laugh and feel exuberant joy– I want her to never feel alone. To always know that I’m available to her at every turn. To never think that the self-depreciating thoughts that lurk in our minds, because we’re only human, in no way deserve permanent occupancy in her big beautiful brain of possibilities. (I know her parents are very much in favour of these ideas as well, but they’re also concerned with paying for her soccer equipment and ensuring she gets her reading homework done. Meanwhile, me, the languishing auntie, I’ve got all the time in the world for her beyond those boring things.)
I think about the weird shit I’ve encountered growing up, how certain peers treated me, how certain adults put me down in order to drive home a point, be it my weight or my shyness. None of it should’ve built up to a point of holding me back at stages, but yea, it happens. It happened to you. And that whole bullshit about “It made you strong and learn how to work hard to be a success,” yea all of that can go eat its own butt.
Think of how much farther ahead you’d be right now in your own vision of “success” without those setbacks. I think that’s what I’ve been exploring in my last few posts, about learning from a young age to be scared to ask for help, to be fearful of not being perfect because that’s all everyone in my community seemed to ask of me. Be nice, be sweet and be exactly what we’re telling you to be. Be their version of perfect.
For my final project in 4th-year Abnormal Psychology I focused on the topic of Exceptionalism, the opposite, but equally extreme, end of the spectrum when people think of “abnormal.” Basically, the other end of the bell curve when you look at “normal” right down the middle. Those incredible viral articles about the poor disadvantaged kid born to a single mother who almost aborted him, growing up to be the 7th-richest person in America. That stuff. The go-to view of the general public on such outliers seems to be that their tough beginnings instilled a sense of wanting more despite all odds– and Hard. Work. Pull yourself up from your bootstraps. Ooh yea. And yea, total bullshit. Yes, they did work hard, I’m in no way taking that away from them. But these are the outliers. You still have generations of kids growing up in supremely difficult and disadvantageous circumstances who do not make it out thriving, or even alive.
The absolute only single variable that was common amongst all of these kids who made it beyond the odds, despite their situations, and absolutely thrived, be it 7th-richest human or middle-class suburban glory– was the presence of an adult, any adult– teacher, neighbour, relative, Big Brother/Sister– in their life who truly believed in them. Who mentored them. Who showed them possibilities. Who supported them through their setbacks. Who cared enough to desire more for them beyond food, water and shelter. Beyond basic survival.
I’ll never regret not having started my acting career sooner, not having done an acting degree instead of Psychology, because I got the privilege to study human behaviour– the single-most influential factor in our lives– and reconfigure my worldview. (Sure, I left undergrad massively depressive and suicidal, but at least I knew what was happening, and that’s a story for another time.)
That tiny little squirt who spanned the length of my forearm when I first met her. That tiny little weirdo, home sick with a sniffle and colouring in a unicorn– her mom working in the home office, her dad preoccupied by a phonecall– pulled up Facetime on her own yesterday on the family iPad, and for the first time ever, called me.
The overwhelming magnitude of gratitude I feel towards this pandemic for shutting down the world so I could build myself into the image in my daydream, into that first person this cool little human turns to when she’s left to her own devices and on the hunt for a good time. As much as I hate covid for totally and completely throwing my career off-track, for leaving me physically and emotionally isolated at the height of grief I never could have imagined– there’s finally a sense of relief in having located a source of forgiveness and acceptance for what the world is now, and where I get to progress from now.