my story. the coffee shop version.

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I’m not a small talk kind of person.  I suck at it actually.  It feels super awkward for me and surface level.

I’d rather sit down and ask personal questions to get to know someone or to catch up on how their family is doing.  Maybe that’s the small town person in me.
Either way, if you’re reading this, maybe you came across it somehow or took me up on my offer to sit down and get the coffees shop version of my story.  Close friends know that’s where I open up and talk.

 

So here we go, my story…

I used to define myself by my career.

I was as a teacher.
I was a curriculum consultant for a large school board in Ontario.
I was an instructional designer.
Each role included pieces that felt like me but never the perfect fit.
It felt like something was missing.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t figure it out until she was gone.

My Grandma Lainie was there through every promotion,
proudly celebrating my accomplishments and reminding me that I could do anything.
At 6 months pregnant with our first baby, I lost my biggest cheerleader in life.
When my gram passed away suddenly, it no longer felt like something was missing.
It felt like being completely lost.

Eric and I had our first child, then another, and another.
Three little ones in three years (it was planned, seriously!)
With the fog of losing gram, the lack of sleep with newborns, and three consecutive maternity leaves, I started asking myself some pretty big questions.
Who am I?  What do I want to do with my life?

I decided to start a blog.

With a one year old, a newborn, and a recent move
to our “new” 1920s house that we were gutting and renovating…
I figured it was the perfect time to start a blog, right?!
But I loved writing and enjoyed the experience of writing a book with my gram.
Maybe I was longing for a piece of that again.

I didn’t know what to write.
I felt anxious and worried about what people would think.
It was a huge act of vulnerability on my part,
and Eric was so patient with me
as I tore apart every sentence,
overthinking
ev.ery.thing.

I also decided to start a personal project, 101 Projects.
I wanted to try different things to see what I liked
and to find out what I could learn about myself in the process.
It did however, create a bit of a frenzy for me
as I searched to find “my thing.”
It also started to lead me in a new direction.

I offered to volunteer as a blogger for a local community group.
After writing quick posts about upcoming events being hosted by local businesses,
I was curious to learn more about the people behind the storefronts.
I proposed an alternative idea for my blogging contributions:
The Humans of Danforth East.

I crafted some questions, downloaded a voice recording app,
and began interviewing local business owners
once the kids went to bed at night.
It was very much out of my comfort zone
and I loved it.
I realized that I was kind of good at it.
I made people feel comfortable (even though we were total strangers)
and I was able to pull out important threads in their stories.
I enjoyed getting to know them
and learning about the important moments in their lives.

I kept blogging about random things in my life.
I was taking pottery classes.
I was reading voraciously.
I was teaching an online course.
I kept taking on more and more, and yet
I still didn’t feel like I was getting any closer
to realizing what I wanted to do
or who I was.

And then a brief comment by my husband
changed the direction of my work and our life.

Our daughter, Charlie, was 7 months old at the time.
A large print hung on the wall behind us.

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My husband turned to me and said, What if she wants to be a rose?

At first, I was surprised by his comment.
Why would she want to be like everyone else?
She totally wants to be a wildflower!
She’s not going to be a sheep just following along and being like everyone else.

The print reminded me of my gram – her love of wildflowers
and how she chose to live her life differently than others.
It reminded me of me.
And I wanted that for Charlie.

Then days later, his comment started to sink in.
I realized that I was already putting expectations on her without even realizing.
What other baggage of mine will transfer to the kids in negative ways?
What other messages will I send unconsciously?

I began doing some personal writing –
reflecting on my habits
and the things about myself that I wasn’t proud of.
I read the book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers and was inspired to write
a collection of pieces I called, the people on my bus.
I wanted to be more self aware.  I wanted to have a positive impact on our kids.

I decided to sign up for a Life Stories writing class
being hosted by a local writing studio.
It was my first time being surrounded by others who also loved writing.
Through the weekly pieces we shared and the feedback I received,
I began to feel like a writer for the first time in my life.
It built my confidence.
I learned more about my own style
and thought to myself,
I can do this.

Then I stumbled upon the term narrative identity and loved it.  In my nerdy kind of way.

And it inspired me to write a book for our kids. So that’s the project I’m working on now.
it’s not going to be a cute little memory book (I’ve made them those),
it’s going to be a book I will publish.  Stay tuned.

I’ve realized that no one will ever be able to tell my story, but me.
And if something were to ever happen to me,
I would want the kids to know their mom.
I know it may sound dark, but it’s true.
You never know what can happen in life
and we shouldn’t wait
until we’re sick or something is wrong
before passing along our stories.
It’s too important
and there’s research that totally supports this point.

Through the process of writing my life stories,
I am already learning so much about myself and my loved ones.
Some of the pieces I’ve written have been incredibly healing
and I now find that when I play through those inner stories about my life,
they are no longer there.  That’s a pretty big change for me.
I am slowly rewriting my story and it feels good.

I hope that in sharing my stories with you,
it will encourage you to write yours.
We all have something to share.
And I bet there’s someone out there
who will be very thankful that you did.