listen up

I was sexually abused, and I have chosen to write about it because there are certain things on my mind that have kept me awake for days.

There's something about the world that makes me frustrated, when I see our reactions geared by anger, hate, and expressed rage. When we scream and point fingers, we don't listen. When we accuse, we lose sight of the truth. When I saw the reactions to the recent sexual assault articles on the internet, I felt the need to speak up. Not only about my own abuse, but my abuser.

Yes, people who are violated need to tell someone about it.  I did the day it happened. What I didn't know was that I'd been violated a number of times, because the scenarios -prior to the worst one- were so innocently laid out. He was clumsy, apologetic, and had absolutely no idea what he was doing. I felt he actually had a problem, an obsession he couldn't control. He was a pedophile, and he acted on his thoughts. What is it that makes an abuser get so caught up in their thoughts that they have to act it out? I feel that we will never know the answers, unless we ask them to speak.

My abuser didn't go to jail. He wasn't burned at the stake. He was barely even punished. Instead, he got help. It was an option, and I didn't always like this decision; especially on days when I was feeling shamed and guilty from what I'd been through. Still, I didn't feel that being angry solved anything. It only put me in a place I didn't want to be. I feel that making sure my abuser got help was actually the better answer than throwing him in a cell and waiting for him to drop the soap. I don't believe that hurt is healed through revenge and punishment. I feel that the only way for us to fully understand is to listen to the source. 

I feel that our abusers hurt just as much as the people they inflict their own internal pain on. My abuser experienced the same sort of anguish that I did as a child. He did what he only knew. No one was aware of his abuse, until he was asked to speak. This doesn't void the wrong of his actions, but I feel it helps with the process of learning how to get our abusers to speak up without shame. We can't stop them without understanding them. Instead of locking them up and screaming our heads off, shut off the hate, and listen. It's the only way we can get answers, and hope to prevent it.

I've gone through many moments of hating my abuser, for stealing a part of my childhood that I will never know. I grew up far too fast. I have also felt far too many moments of shame when I say that my first sexual experience was with someone who was posing as a potential father figure. It is really amazing, the impact it has had on me and how I view myself. I still see the scars of his actions when I notice the protective shell that I carry, to keep people out. Anything, to avoid going through what I've already been through. I've been hardened through my experiences so heavily; when yet I was born as sensitive and caring as they come. I am still learning how to let people see that, without fearing it will be abused again. It bothers me when I see the evidence of trauma.

I don't choose to think of myself as a victim. I also don't see myself as a survivor. I was abused and I naturally had to live my life the best way I knew how. If I let the weight of someone's actions take over my life, hate wins. I choose to live and be proud. I stopped asking why, or how I deserved it. It's something I didn't have control over, it's something I didn't understand. Through my experiences I feel I've learned so much about myself, and the world we live in. I have healed and become something better than what I was. I am stronger than I ever expected. I am what I am. That's what healing is. I only learned through listening. That's what we need to do.

Stop the hate, and listen. Everyone deserves to be heard.


personal work

It started with one image, and it took me somewhere. It brought me out of a really stubborn funk. I didn't know how to shake it, but I let it come out through a little personal project. I suppose this post is about how personal work differs from the real work, and how personal work is just as important as the work that puts food on the table. 

I love when a series can teach me a little about myself. I realize that since returning to the city, after having spent 4 glorious months in the wilderness, I am going through a major withdrawal from nature. I'd even say that it has been depressing for me, to return to city energy. It is far more frantic, tense, distracted, and impatient. Why are we in such a big hurry? Why do we glaze over and stare at our phones so often? Where is the real connection? Where is the presence of absence? Why don't we stop and enjoy shit? It grosses me out, how much we're missing out on, right in front of us. The trees, the stars in the sky, the landscapes, the clouds, the rivers, the valleys, our loved ones. It's all right there! I decided to take my frustrations, and focus on my own energy. It's all I can do, really.  If I give it time, if I let it breathe, if I express; it slows down and it blooms into something quite beautiful. How you take it in, how you let it out, is a choice. Breathe.

This series also reminded me of natural beauty. There's power in beauty, there's power in knowing who you naturally are, there's power in being a woman born on this earth. To think that there are people who jack themselves full of toxins to have fuller lips, more defined cheekbones, bigger boobs, tight asses; it's terribly sad. Society is so caught up in the shiny things, it's tough to notice the real beauty that is right there in front of us. We don't even appreciate our own skin anymore. I cling to nature, and hope she teaches more people to go with the flow in which she glides with. Life is life. We all die. Who cares if we look our age? We are all beautiful as we age, as we grow, and we become more of ourselves. Personally, I think aging is sexy. Natural beauty.

Personal work is so important, and yet it can be tricky to give time to. When there is real work to do, I find it difficult to put myself first, because it feels selfish. It took a lot to get myself to listen to what my mind was telling me, because I created my own guilt. I even imagined my own audience; sitting, waiting, asking me why I wasn't working on their -paid- projects. Personal work is just as valuable as real work because it helps with the process. When you repress what needs to come out, it builds tension, it wears you thin. It's like tucking yourself under the rug. It isn't healthy. Let it out. I was actually quite exhausted before I started this series, and I couldn't sort out why. As soon as I got to the third image, I felt like I could run a marathon...with my mind!

Before I knew it, I had 5 images completed in one day. It surprised me, as I looked at the clock and saw 4am roll by. I wasn't tired. I was excited. I was on a roll, but I had to tell myself to stop for the night. I was happy to be excited with my work again. I woke up the next day and approached my real work with ease. I was happy with what I was creating, and as I got into the swing of pumping out projects, I realized the personal work was actually helping me. It was also cheering me on. You CAN do this. You are good at what you do! You make amazing things! You're inspiring others! You've inspired yourself! Go you!

But, what's the difference when it's almost the exact same work as what I do every day? Well, it's the process of thought and expression that is entirely different. I'm relying on myself for the imagery, I'm creating something new, something that doesn't require a photo for reference. I'm not copying a face that exists, I'm not working for anyone but myself, I'm not working to please anyone but myself. It's a totally different ball game, and it helps my mind breathe. Creatives need to express themselves. It really is as necessary as breathing. 

I realize that I was miserable when I worked in an office, because I wasn't able to express myself the way I needed to. I was simply doing work for someone else to take for themselves, without a thank you, without any feedback. Creatives are emotional. Yes, we love the pat on the back, because we put ourselves into everything we do. With the work I do now, I'm beyond happy. I'm an entirely different person, because I get to see where my work goes. It touches people. It inspires people. It brings people together. This is incredibly beautiful to me, and I feel amazing to get to call this my job. This is where freelance has saved my life. There is no reward in the corporate world. Not for me, at least. It's not about the bigger pay check, or pleasing someone with a tie. The reward is in personal growth and knowledge, the ability to see that what you do actually makes someone feel something positive. I wouldn't give it up for anything. 

To encourage my work flow, I started to use my personal work as a reward, to end my day. If I could send out an X amount of orders in a day, it meant I was allowed to do something for myself; without the guilt I was only putting on myself for no good reason. I have a horrible habit of devoting all of my energy into what I do, because it's easier for me to give to others. It sometimes takes hours for me to even disconnect, because some parts of my work don't feel like work. I feel lucky to get to do what I do, but it doesn't mean it needs to be my every waking moment. When I let my work consume me, it does exactly that. My energy was tapped out entirely almost a week ago. And now, I'm ready to take on more. All because of this series.

People love when things are personal. It's part of how this series came to be. It isn't a coincidence that the Taurus illustration looks a little bit like me, with dark hair and freckles. It's my sign, and I wanted it to be something special that I could smile at. It took me back to how nature makes me feel, how I feel as the woman I am, when I was born, how I've grown to be who I am today. There are pieces of myself that I'm only just learning how to put out there, without reluctance. This series oozes with delicate femininity. When I see this as a part of myself, it makes me feel good about who I am today. I've softened, I've loosened up, I've opened myself into things I would have normally feared. I'm happy to see those pieces of myself surface. It pleases me to see that in this series. Personal work is a healer inside and out, because it is simply that... it's personal! I'm so proud of it, and because of that, I'm proud of myself.

It takes a lot for people to be proud of themselves, because we live in a world that is often threatened by the happiness of others. If you can make happiness seem easy, you're doing a good job. It's not easy, at least not all the time. If you can figure out how to provide yourself with it, it becomes stronger and a natural part of your life. I'm happier than I've been in years. And I mean maybe even decades. I'm learning to let myself embrace who I am, love what I do, without worrying if it seems selfish or arrogant. If you don't know the difference between arrogance and self love, maybe you need to take more time to sort it out. Self love is essential to happiness. If you don't love who you are, then no one else will. I feel deeply loved these days, and it shows in my work. Happiness shines when you let it out. If someone doesn't like it, let them have their clouds to themselves. Life is too short to bother.

To be able to inspire others with what I do, inspires me even further. It's like a never ending cycle that creatives live off of; which is why I am in so in love with visual social media, such as Instagram. I've managed to create a certain community that I can reach out to when I need the guidance, advice, or maybe even a little "me too!" to remind me that the personal lulls are part of the process. It's tough for creatives to admit that we can't just make amazing things every waking hour of the day. Believe me, if we could, we would. We live off of giving to others. That's why when the silence spreads, it lays on thick. It's like missing a big piece of yourself. The beauty is when you find it again. It always returns. Don't you worry!

Lastly, this series reminds me of personal growth. When I was in BC, I was inspired by nature, and I worked on an entirely different series that involved ladies with flowers in their hair. I love where this whole thing has taken me, and I'm glad that I'm so different than who I was even this time last year. I've grown, I've come to understand who I am, what is important, what makes me the person I am today. I'm going to grow old, I'm going to let nature tell me when it's time. This is a beautiful world filled with growth, loss, lessons, and so much love. I'm so proud of myself for finding this series, and allowing myself to heal through it. This my friends is why personal work is necessary. Do yourself a favour and make something for yourself. Make it yours, and see where you go. 

So much love.


more of this

I took the advice of one of my best friends, and decided to take the time to celebrate. After all that has gone on lately; just stop, breathe, and say thank you for the moment. It took a lot to get here.

I'm still coming back to myself, as I catch up with life, and get to know my new home. It feels good to be in this moment, and see just how far I've come, how long it took to get here, what I've learned along the way, and who I am today. It was a very long, emotional, struggle; I'll admit that I'm still a little bit exhausted. I'm catching up, I'm breathing. Stop and celebrate. You made it.

I survived one full year of being a freelance artist. A year of providing for myself. A year of learning how to take what I love and give it to others. The connection is my pay check. The feedback is my fuel. The achievements are my confidence. I worked so hard to get here. Celebrate.

I feel lucky to have such wonderful friends who remind me to stop and be proud of where I am. It takes a lot to take it all in, but I see it. I think we should all take more of these little breaks and be proud of ourselves for all that we have in front of us. Life isn't always easy, but it is what you make of it. It's a beautiful thing.