As I stood at the very end of the Santa Monica Pier, looking into the cold infinity of the Pacific, tears welled up and I felt my knees weakening just a little.
I took a deep breath, goosebumps spreading all over my body. Starting at my heart, it seemed.
I couldn’t believe I was there—finally.
This story actually starts in 1996, at the end of August.
Take the time to travel back, if you will: Tupac, Alanis Morissette and Oasis make up the soundtrack of our life (and we cringe every time we hear the Macarena start, which is usually several times a day). Trainspotting just came out, screaming our zeitgeist on the screen.
No social media. No smartphones. No Netflix.
I was taking a short summer break from college—getting mono at the very start of my freshman year had forced me to take classes up until mid-July to catch up—and I was living what felt like my very first adult adventure.
I’d spent the previous month in a city five hours away from home, working on an exciting touring show, making what would become incomparable memories.
The previous weeks had brought me all kinds of thrills: the ecstatic delight of seeing incomparable artists deliver their best, the unnerving excitement of going out—by myself!—to all kinds of bars in seedy neighbourhoods, the deep connection that can be enjoyed when making fast friends in a hard-working environment.
I’d found my people, and I wasn’t ready for it to end.
Sadly, the show was pursuing its tour and heading to Los Angeles, while I was to return home and jump into sophomore year.
Heart heavy, I packed up my Doc Martens and my chunky platform high heels, my sparkly mini dresses and my baggy pants, my hair wax and my pleather vest, and made my way to the train station, heading back to reality.
I didn’t want to be in Ottawa anymore. Every part of my soul yearned to be in California, and I made a promise to myself that I’d do whatever was in my power to bring me there.
Fast forward twenty years.
I am no longer pink-haired. In fact, these days, my colouring endeavours have much more to do with covering the greys that are claiming increasing real estate on my head. My body bears marks of passing time: wrinkles, stretch marks, scars.
I am grateful for every passing year.
I have come to Southern California to hang out with my people. Not the same people, mind you, but the feeling still holds strong. Spending the weekend at the Radiance Retreat, with some of the strongest, most inspiring women I know, felt like closure.
Through the many deep—and also downright silly—discussions that took place over the weekend, I was certainly able to gauge how much life has happened since that fateful day where a despondent seventeen-year-old me boarded that train back to “real life”.
The carefully constructed plans of two decades ago never actually came to fruition, despite my efforts. Life had other scenarios in store for me, and while things didn’t pan out how I was expecting them to, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having had a very rich, fulfilling life since that memorable summer.
I can’t help but smile when I realize that it took letting go of that burning need to be elsewhere before the universe would give me the opportunity to move. It took believing that life would bring me where I needed to be, while relinquishing control of the means.
It took trust.
If you don’t give yourself permission to
create a new world, chances are nobody will.
Beyond time passing, one fundamental thing changed: I stopped waiting to be given permission to do things.
Stopped expecting to be recognized by the powers that be, to be given an approval stamp that would allow me to go forth, to speak up, to create, to take space.
I had permission all along. And you do too.
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