I was a little world-weary by the time I was 17. I was a city kid from an affluent neighbourhood, had already held a variety of jobs, had indulged in various romances, travelled in Europe and had the chapter of drunken teenage parties well behind me.
I signed up for a Junior Forest Ranger program in northern Ontario that summer, and I was put in a cabin with Kate.
We couldn’t have had more different backgrounds. Kate was from a pig farming family. She lived a 20 minute drive from Wingham, Ontario. She was away from home for the first time. Kate had never dated anyone.
I cleaved towards Kate. She was totally wide-eyed and unfiltered. She shared her opinions like they were guilty secrets she had never confessed, each presented like a nugget of gold. She was so open about what she didn’t know. When she revealed her inner critic, it seemed to be missing some toxic element that I carried in my own heart.
This summer I sat at a dinner table with a 17 year old girl from the city. Socially adept and imitating confidence, she presented her resume at a machine gun speed, listing the highlights while remembering to coat statements with a expected layer of modesty.
From a family of high achievers, I felt empathetic and not a little sad for this girl, and for the pain of my false bravado.
Recently I have pulled myself out of the studio to watch videos on strategies for the self-employed which seems to involve a good deal of false bravado. The successful prototypes spin quickly, leaving me dizzy with the lack of authenticity. Being an artist for me is about a life of constant learning, and in my experience, has involved an Everest of humility, which isn’t considered a marketing asset.
When I brush up against tactics or spend an hour with an adult who quickly reminds me how much in demand they are, it leaves me lonely, guessing I will never be close to this person. The story I tell myself; This is the Way of the World.
As my salve, my mind turns to Kate. During university Kate and I fell out of contact. She moved back to Wingham.
We were both parents by the time we reconnected. I don’t see her much. Kate is busy harvesting at this time of year. She has not become rich or famous, but she is genuinely connected to her kids, and her spirit is bright and sharp. Thinking of her fills me with relief and inspiration.