For most people, New Years is when they make resolutions, but for me, I do them on my birthday, one, because that’s really a full year for me and two, because it marks a time in my life when I decided to be more than I thought I could be.
When I was 25, from the outside you would swear I was living my dreams, I’d just successfully transitioned from being a make-up artist to an actor, had landed a great agent, was working at The Shaw Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in North America, and had two US National commercials running on TV. Money was good, and I had good people around me to call friends. The only problem was, I hated who I was on the inside and looking in the mirror was torturous. I had a deep understanding of what Charles Dickens meant when he wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So many beautiful things were happening around me, but I couldn’t enjoy it and had no one to enjoy it with either. But this birthday was different, something changed, I hit my rock bottom. I could see for the first time where each step was taking me, and I didn’t like it. Before my season at The Shaw Festival was over though, I made sure to look for any trap doors at the bottom of my barrel, and sure enough, I found a few more. What I thought was my bottom was actually the gateway to a deeper level of depression from which I had to pull myself out. I gained an additional 40lbs before the end of my contract ensuring I truly hated myself.
Now, I share this with you because finding those trap doors led me to the biggest, brightest door imaginable. The doorway to change. I finally knew what my future looked like, there was no more mystery to my life, there was no questioning or denying that continuing down that path was taking me towards a lonely life, filled with bitterness, hatred and so much sadness.
It was on my 26th birthday that I was lucky enough to meet a stranger who showed me honesty and kindness. Sitting with my girlfriend on the subway making, what I thought were hilarious fat girl jokes and talking about how hard it is to meet a great guy, an older woman (who without my knowledge) had been listening in, suddenly offered up some unsolicited advice. She said “your life is the way it is because you want it to be that way, it’s comfortable and easy, but not satisfying, but it doesn’t have to be. You have more say and choice in your life than you know. Life isn’t about what you can get out of it, but what you can offer up to it instead. You say you want to be in a happy, loving relationship with someone who supports you, who takes care of themselves, yet I just heard you say you do none of those things. I know you don’t know me, and your life is none of my business, but I’m gonna give you my advice anyway: Be the person you want to be with. See that woman you wish you could be and take steps to be her EVERY DAY! Cause one day, you might just wake up to find you are her”.
For whatever reason, my cynical self at the time heard her words, and then, like a puff of smoke, she was gone, out of my life forever. So, to the older woman on the subway, thank you. Though I couldn’t digest all of what she said at the time, one thing did resonate, the part about taking steps towards being the woman I want to be every day. So on my 26th birthday, I made my first real New Years resolution, to walk in the opposite direction of the girl I was so I could meet up with the woman I was going to be.
Each year I continue that tradition, I give honor to the girl who felt lower than she’s ever felt, sitting in a basement apartment, hoping that her life would be better with small, but consistent efforts.
It feels overwhelming to try to be the person you want to be when you’re not them yet because there’s a lot to change. I started a ritual that helped me make sense of what the woman said and now, years down the road I can see the assembled pieces of how I became the person I always wanted to be, but I didn’t do it all at once.