Eleven years ago today, I got sick. The emotional effects didn’t hit me till weeks later, but today was the day it started – 11pm at night, suddenly awake and feeling ill. And then that feeling just never going away.
It’s been a long road to the place where I am now.
Last year felt monumental – a whole decade. Christ, I thought, that’s a long time. I felt like I’d spent 10 years picking up the pieces, and with super glue and duct tape, trying to put back together a semblance of a life few thought I could have.
I used to joke that my only goal was to be a self-sufficient cripple. But I wasn’t really joking.
Just as much as I’ve tried to reassemble my life, I’ve been working at reassembling my Self. When you grow up defined by your illness, it’s hard to see outside of that. When it’s all anyone ever talks about, or focuses on, or remembers you for, you start to forget that there is anything else inside of you.
I defined myself by what I couldn’t do. I saw so much of my weakness, and so little of my strength. It’s taken me so long to understand what happened, to move beyond being just the “sick girl” everyone saw me as.
I will never forget the utter hopelessness I felt nearly 6 years ago when I thought that my life was over. I was so sick, I barely left my room, let alone the house. My doctor suggested when I felt a bit better I could take a couple watercolour classes at the community centre.
All I could think is, “Is this what my life has come to? Is this all there is for me?”
So I made a commitment – a commitment to come back to myself, to remember who I was outside the doctors’ offices and hospital rooms, and the endless list of “miracle cures.”
That was in July of 2006. Every day since then, I’ve been taking baby steps back to myself and towards the woman that I want to be.
I decided that I was an artist. I learned (ha! still learning) to embrace the boundaries that my life has, and to grow a brilliant life within them.
A bonsai tree is beautiful and wondrous because of its boundaries, not despite them.
I chose an unconventional path, found ways to support myself by working at home. I became the self-sufficient cripple that I’d always said I’d be.
I climbed out of the hole that I’d fallen into, and now I’m sitting on the rim, looking out at this bright and crazy world which is larger and fuller than I’d ever expected.
When I was 18, a lot of doors had shut in my face. I’ve spent the last 6 years learning to open windows. It hasn’t been easy. So much of me still believes all of the doctors, all of the advice for years to just play small, stay small, keep your head down and don’t set your sights too high because you’ll fail.
I’m teaching myself that these things aren’t true; that there are parts of me that are strong, that I can dream bigger dreams.
This year, I feel like I’ve come full circle. Once upon a time, before I got sick, I dreamed of living in Europe, being self-employed and independent. I gave up on that dream for so long.
This year, I’m working on reclaiming it. I found the art school of my dreams in France last year, and after 6 months there, I knew it was where I was meant to be. This year, I plan on returning for 18 months to continue studying and honing my craft.
It’s the next step in my journey. I’m dreaming bigger than my bank account – right now, I have no idea how I’m going to fund such an experience. If you read my blog, you know that in November, I barely made rent.
But I have to try. I can’t explain it, but this is what I’m meant to be doing. I’m following my heart, my gut, every cell in my body that’s just yearning towards this.
A step at a time, I’m stretching the boundaries of what I used to think was possible. I’m creating the space for my dreams.
Become a patron of the arts
I need to pay my tuition ($2000) by Friday, January 20th (6 days from now). I have just under $650 of that right now, so I’m a quarter of the way there! (BOOYAH.)
Awesome Way #1 to Join In: Sketches from the Road
This is my totally awesome, exclusive inside look to living life in France (and exploring other bits of Europe) while going to a private art school. It’s kind of like my own reality TV show with a weekly video, love letters to you, photos of everything I see and my progression as an artist.
It’s just $20 for 18 months of food, wine, travel, silliness and visual pleasure.
(And you’re not tied in to 18 months. You can unsubscribe at any time. Although trust me, you won’t want to. I’m too cute. )
Awesome Way #2: Buy some art! (Sketches from the Road subscription included!)
Surrounding yourself with beauty is good for your soul. You know that art makes your world better, brighter and more hopeful. Get yourself a painting as a symbol for the dreams you’re dreaming.
If you can’t contribute financially, but still want to help out, I’d love it if you shared this post with your friends and networks and helped to spread the word. Thank you!