Cleaning out my apartment on a long weekend, was not my idea of a good time. Moving into a one bedroom/500 sq foot place that’s smaller than one floor of our previous prairie home, has taught me a lot of things. About how I hold onto too many things for “someday”, when they’d be better off gifted to someone who could use them today. About how I have a habit of mindlessly shopping to avoid dealing with the fact that my “real life” can make me feel numb. About how much more I could have gotten rid of before we moved and saved myself some space in the first place, while giving myself grace that sometimes the sentimentality needs to be held a few moments longer before you remember it’s just stuff.
Going through the last remaining boxes of extras, I came across an old journal. While most of mine have been ceremoniously burnt and let go (no one should be subjected to the non-sense that was 8 year old Jenna writing notes back and forth to her babysitter on the living room floor, or angsty 20 year old Jenna trying to figure out the world), I found one that I don’t recall ever using. It wasn’t one of the pretty ones I’d been gifted, or the far too many leather bound, string wrapped ones I hoard. Just a plain red book. The first page, in all caps, dated 2009 was written “I’m going to be a writer, I just haven’t figured out how yet”.
Looking back, I’m not even sure what 2009 held for me. I know I would have been working at my government job - the one that people told me was the sign I’d made it - work, collect pension and retire. I know I used to write rambling emails to my co-workers, about everything from the latest pop song I despised on the radio (see, angst) or my constant bafflement at humans. I’m not sure if I wanted to write short stories, poetry, biographies or articles for the news. But I knew I wanted to write.
I don’t recall having any creative outlet at that time, to be honest, I’m not sure I even knew I was creative then. It would be that job, and the constant “this is it? This is what I do for 30+ years?” combined with the gift of a camera and encouragement from my dad, that would lead me down the path of creativity. There would be wheel pottery courses, quilt making classes, 9 months of beading at the local Friendship Centre to make the tiniest of purses (and forever tell beaders to charge more for their work that I’d buy), crochet on night shifts, and photography courses. I can remember being a kid and writing stories, double spaced, hand written, complete with drawn covers and giving them to my grandparents as gifts. They were likely about horses and likely made very little sense.
Now, I sit here, 10 years after that journal entry was scratched, realizing those words were a prophesy I wasn’t aware I was chasing. This year I have seen my photos published in brochures for the health region and in various small business marketing campaigns. My words have shown up in blogs, turned into humbling art by people I’ve never met in real life, and in Bella Grace Magazine - a publication I had written down on my 2019 goals to approach for publication, but never got brave enough to reach out to.
When they asked me to summarize why I do what I do, I couldn’t make it concise. If you’ve ever had to sit through a meeting of any kind with me, you’ll know concise is not what I do. A story kept pouring out of me, about how I’d found myself here, what it means, and why I think documenting moments of being you are important. I attempted several edits, tried writing in different locations (weirdly: the bus is a place where stories pour out of me. Maybe it’s the mix of energies, maybe it’s not needing to focus on my commute, but if you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk about catching a tiger by the tail - that’s the only place that weird phenomena has ever happened for me), but the whole story kept asking to be told.
Frustrated, and maybe subconsciously hopeful it would be more than an Instagram feature, I sent off the entire story, advising the editors to “just pick and choose” which lines they were going to use to describe me as I wasn’t able to narrow it down. When I first starting getting messages about my article, I didn’t have my copy in hand - it’s a hard magazine to find where I am and shipping delays meant I impatiently waited - thanking people for their kind feedback on something I hadn’t seen yet. It was my best friend from several provinces over who finally alerted me that it wasn’t a 1/2 page feature like I had agreed to; rather a multiple page spread, complete with a story.
Seeing my words in print is still something I’m searching to accurately describe. As I packed up my copy of Bella Grace into the old steam trunk I keep old family photos, my degrees and other sentimental memorabilia in, I couldn’t help but smile thinking, “I hope that feels as wonderful to open the next time I pull this out of storage, as it did the first time”.