Something I'm always curious about when I interview fellow artists is that turning point, I mean, the one in which they decided to pursue their art seriously. What was going on in their lives? What caused that moment to be the one where everything changed?
Certainly, for some, it was more gradual. Though I know for some others it wasn't. There was a shift. The latter there is my experience, and one that I've been thinking about quite a lot now as I approach my last few days here in Paris.
The reason for this is, it's in this city that I first declared that I was a writer. I remember it vividly because I didn't only say so to myself, but to someone I'd just met. This was early 2017, when I was living here post-grad school. (I actually came here for an internship in the fashion industry and then promptly quit it a few weeks later - I believe this story exists somewhere on the blog in the first few pages). I remember we were crossing the street, at the corner of Rue des Écoles and Boulevard Saint-Michel, on our way to the Jardin de Luxembourg. He asked what I did and, as I was freelancing at the time for a few travel outlets and had, for the first time, zero ties to the fashion industry, I told him just that. It was pretty simple then. I wasn't a mixed bag like I am today. I just wrote.
Still, my answer may have been simple, and yet I remember that moment, the feelings inside of me, were... honestly? Explosive. I felt like I was coming out of the closet, or like I was revealing to this guy who I'd only just met my deepest secret. I thought, for sure, he was going to laugh or say, "No, really? What do you do?" But he did none of this. And I was shocked. I felt... liberated, like I'd just let a huge piece of my inner self out and she was being accepted.
That period in my life, those six months in Paris, were life-changing, purely because of the mental barriers I pushed through in that time. Since that moment, I introduced myself to everyone I met as a writer, and quicker than I expected, I came to believe it.
There were other pieces to this shift in mindset that came about while I was here then, too. Most notably the meditation and yoga classes I came to fiend. At first, this was because I was looking to make a community in this city, and these classes seemed like a good and easy way to do so. I only had a minor interest in yoga/ spirituality/ meditation. But then, the easiest way to put it is, I became obsessed with it. I became particularly interested in meditation, and began to seek out those classes more so than the Asana classes. And it was in those classes that my mindset shifted even further. We did these visualizations in those classes of our "best life," what it would look like, and we would be prompted to paint in our minds even the finest of details — from the way our home looked, to what we did first thing in the morning, etc. (Simultaneously, I should note, I was doing these same exercises with the help of Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Work Week). And, you know, perhaps it sounds silly if you've never tried it, but these visualizations, accompanied by mantras (one per class), really changed a lot. It was like my mind had been cleaned out and rewired.
They changed so much that, when I got back to Toronto that summer of 2017, I didn't feel the social pressure to conform again and shed the identity I'd come to embrace in Europe. But rather, I actually felt a deepening in this identity when I told my friends, my family, etc. who it was I'd become. Incidentally, this is because I genuinely felt (and still feel) like who I "became" wasn't someone else, but myself.
Since then, life's been quite the journey, to say the least—accompanied, of course, with a number of downs, particularly as I reintegrated back into Toronto and had to figure out how to make this all work, financially. But I won't go there now, as I think I've written about that enough.
The piece I didn't expect was fiction. I always thought, since my adult years anyway, I'd be writing articles, blog posts, etc. It was the sort of writing I'd been acquainted with in school, whereas fiction had dropped off for me in the 8th grade when I stopped creating stories. How fiction walked back into my life is another story for another day, related to community and mentorship, etc.
For today, I'm thinking as I look out at this beautiful (if raining) city, how there's something almost fated about finishing this draft of The Play House here in Paris. There are still so many unknowns, especially with regards to publishing — mostly with regards to publishing, actually. And to be honest, those can be extraordinarily anxiety provoking (I was thinking about them last night — What if no one wants to publish it? What if I never acquire an agent? Do I really believe in self-publishing for fiction? Do I really believe in myself and my own skills in business if I DO need to self-publish? Can I do it? Who am I to do that, really?).
But when I think about it, and I mean really think about it, those anxieties seem a bit silly. I mean, to look at the enormity of the task of publishing, they make sense, but to look at how everything has happened so far — slowly, piece by piece, well it takes a lot of the stress out. I think anxieties with regards to big projects are created out of this notion we've engrained in our minds that we need to know how to do it ALL, NOW. But we can challenge this. Every time we step back, remind ourselves we can educate ourselves on each step of the process as we go, that there ISN'T a rush... and, as a result of this, watch the stress dissolve.
At least, that's how I feel, that's what Paris, or my time here, has taught me. First, you just need to take the first step (admit to yourself who you are). Then you need to take the next (admit what that means with regards to what you want). And after that, you break it down. Baby step by baby step. Most of all, you learn to soak up and be present in each segment of the journey along the way. You do this when you create community around it; when you recognize yourself growing through the struggles of it; when you enjoy the highs; and when you feel grateful for the narrative in its entirety, for the ability to even be on the path, to have those pieces of the journey become your life, infused with meaning and purpose.
And with that, I'm off to edit the last nine pages. So, here's to you all and your journeys, and the strength to follow your nose down the uncut, unclear, ever winding off beat path.