Woah. I made it through my twenty-sixth year. It wasn't pretty. It held some of my darkest and most painful days. Thinking back to my last birthday, I had just gotten out of a pretty shitty relationship, I was staying on my friend Lauren's couch for what would be two and a half months, and generally feeling like a loser, completely unsure of where to start. Last year I wanted to burry my head and let the day quietly pass me by.

Last year I started off as a pile of rubble, this year I celebrate with a fire in my belly and an ocean crashing through my heart. Here are some of the milestones, highs and lows, that left a mark: 

Last spring I started therapy, I found a bright, quirky apartment across from the park with a sunny roommate, and in May, I went to Redding for a creativity conference with my longtime friend and mentor, Daphne. I had been having trouble with my figurative and literal voice; didn't know how to write songs anymore, literally couldn't open my guitar case without having a panic attack, and my throat was tight and twisted, like a constant grip of fear was making it impossible for me to sing properly. I listened to emboldened speakers and prophets speak about the role and responsibility of The Artist. I was blessed and built up. I was encouraged and inspired by talented writers, directors, dancers, musicians; my people. Driving away, I physically felt shackles fall off my throat. It was trippy, it was significant. I've embraced it as no small miracle. 

In August I was scooped up by my aunt and uncle Lisa and Mike in Nova Scotia. They make me incredible food and we had cookies at midnight and drank scotch on the porch and they carted me to five different beaches. I realized that every time I visit them, the narrative is always the same, "I'm tired, I'm spent, I've been burning at both ends, I have nothing left in the tank." I started troubleshooting: how does this keep happening, and to what benefit? How could I prevent it? I started making a plan beside the Atlantic with a matching flower crown to my cousin Annika while little Arlo jumped from sand dune to sand dune. 

September brought with it a new determination and discipline for songwriting and poetry. I had a writing schedule, a weekly word count goal, and an idea for my first novel that started writing itself. I went to California (again!) with my friend Tripp. It's always good for the heart to go to California; it has the same healing powers as my native Pacific North West but with more glamourous palm trees and its tinted, sun-kissed locals. We celebrated love at the most beautiful (and detailed!) wedding I've ever been to. We went to a sleepy surf town and tried our hand at body boarding (not entering the Olympics for that one any time soon). We made his parents come with us to morning yoga at the beach. 

On October 6th, the world changed. There are certain life events that become a line in the sand of everything that happened before the event and everything that comes after, and this was one of them. I experienced betrayal by another human, a stranger, and it has challenged and changed me forever. My army of people strapped on their boots and answered the call to action; people wrote and called. They imposed themselves gently but urgently on me. They came to my house and sat with me. They were understanding when I had to bail last minute on plans. They fed me and held me. They let me crash date nights and tag along to movies. They covered my shifts at work. They checked in, and then checked in again. I was buoyed by their rage and carried by their kindness. The following few months were brutal and blurry, but somehow healing happened, even though the wound is still stinging and open. 

My trip home for Christmas was overwhelmingly beautiful. My whole extended family on my dad's side were together for the first time in years. I held my best friend's baby for the first time. My dad hosted a beer tour for my cousins, I got to see my friend Ari perform, I was scooped up by old friends for tea, I drank beautiful wine presented by my wine-genius (and general genius) uncle, Tim, I slept in, I went for lunch with my grandmother, I walked by the inlet, I let the gentle tide of BC lap over me like a blanket.  There was so much healing in those ten days; I felt like I could exhale for the first time in months. 

There was a relief to say goodbye to 2016; something about the date removing me from the events of the fall that brought more distance and breathing room. Many poo-poo the idea of resolutions, but I'm the queen of taking time to reflect (rather, I'm not sure where the reflection stops and fixating begins, but this head is always on). I have some lofty creative plans for this year, I am actively working on adjusting my work schedule (and even work location) to accommodate more space and time for art, and the ever present goal to maybe learn how to blow-dry my hair properly. Someday, I tell ya. Stuff is on the move. 

I played my first solo set in two years in February. I had a meltdown when I got home, which my friend Rob was kind enough to help put me back together (mostly because he was in proximity. Thanks Rob). It's a weird feeling, this thing I love to do, this thing that sometimes I feel good at and sometimes feel I have no business participating in. 

Then I moved with probably the quickest turn-around of life; found out I had to leave my quirky apartment on Friday, saw a listing on Sunday night, looked at it on Monday, got the keys on Tuesday. My friend Sam contrabanded a moving van and helped me carry all of my belongings out of a three story walk up with four hours notice. After work. Before helping another friend move. Natasha showed up late but helped too I guess (okay can't even end the sentence without making it abundantly clear that's a joke). I now have this beautiful home that I think will greatly serve my closeted introversion and give me space to brood and write. 

I haven't had a birthday party since my 14th, when my school friends came over and told me my house was "no fun," they messed up the basement, and ended the night playing ding-dong-ditch in my neighbourhood. Even since moving to Toronto and finding "my people" I get mega-people-pleasing-social-anxiety and get worried about putting all of my favourite humans in one room. But this year it felt necessary to celebrate and make everyone adult and get to know each other. If I love them, everyone would love them. So that's what we did. Drank a lot of wine and ate a lot (a LOT) of cheese, warmed my new home, ate the best sugar donuts in the world, stayed up like so late. It was easy and cozy and just what I wanted. 

I feel an ache in my heart, which I think is natural after such a blow, but I feel triumphant too. I am humbled by my tribe and how they have loved me. I feel proud of my body, that as it has shrieked and bellowed, it has communicated clearly what my Self has needed. Somewhat inconveniently, but effectively. I am incredibly thankful for the art that has risen to meet me, helping me to make sense of a season that I didn't ask for. Over and over it is re-affirmed that there is beauty to account for when we stop and look for it. 

Thank you, as always, for journeying with me, for your sweet encouragements and gentle nudging. 

Love, Jess. 

Posted on March 14, 2017 .