It’s been a rough couple of years. My house is sold. I’m living with my elderly parents. The world is ravaged by pandemic with stops and starts: one country’s period of hope is another’s entry or re-entry into the nightmare. Finding work hasn’t been easy. I’m learning a lot about myself and I don’t like everything that I’m learning. There was a long period of time where I wasn’t receiving unemployment and depleted savings. I got to get a little taste of real struggle. How naive I’d been.
In all of this time, doing all of this continued growth and reflection, a lot of things were forgotten. One reason is that there’s no room: I have a bedroom and I have space to put things too big for my bedroom. I have two storage units. I’ve been focusing on things within (or so I thought) and less on the things outside. In tarot, when you get a Tower card, it’s not looked at as a great card because it means to expect complete upheaval of your foundations. Who wants that? Who wants to be shaken out of what’s comfortable and familiar? I lost my job, my home, my marriage, my old way of life. I mourn all of those things. What was I supposed to do without them? Who am I without these things? What is my worth as a person without these things? A grown adult with no job living with her parents isn’t someone society views as a smashing success story.
A bit over a week ago, I got an email out of the blue asking me about my estimated value of a certain doll. That certain doll was Sweetpop Barbie. It was the doll I’ve been chasing since I was 7 years old and it was on eBay. Last Tuesday morning, I adjusted my high bid to something pretty absurd because no way in hell was I going to let another 11 years pass and not get the doll to complete my collection. She arrived Friday. I opened the box Saturday and there were a lot of tears.
My first thought was that I let 7-year-old me down. I didn’t become the person I dreamed of being. I failed. I lived an impostor’s life. I thought about it some more and I realized no. That wasn’t true at all. I achieved most of my dreams. I was a professional graphic designer. I have been doing illustration work for an Academy Award-winning screenwriter recently. I’ve modeled. I’ve had the attention of the male gaze in a positive way. I had a family of my own choosing and I always will. I had a great 18 years with someone that I loved very much and will always love. I even managed to squeeze in a really great whirlwind romance with someone who made me feel the love, safety, and protection of a much longer-winded relationship than what actually happened, giving me some idea of what I might like the future to look like. I even exceeded anything that my 7-year-old self could have thought of as a great achievement: I survived rape, I survived not being believed, I survived cancer and treatment and recovery, I survived divorce, breakups, joblessness, COVID, lockdown, and watching my dad’s health decline.
I saw triumph of the human spirit in the past year, both my own and the spirit of others. People got together to peacefully put their foot down about being treated as less-than. People leaned out of their windows to cheer for frontline workers coming home after a very shitty day at work. People gathered in the streets to celebrate an election victory. Now, people are coming out to celebrate spring and hopes of a new beginning, small victories and encouraging starts. There is still so much wrong and so much that needs to be fixed, but in these moments of compassionate goodness, I see things to be excited about.
That’s not a failure’s life.
Coming full circle to myself at 7, no, I didn’t achieve everything I wanted at age 7, but I shouldn’t have done that anyhow because people grow into new interests. I discovered that I didn’t want kids. I didn’t want a perm. I didn’t want an exotic car or a mansion (my Barbies had a sick Ferrari, the mansion was imaginary). My biggest dream was to be an artist, and I’m an artist. I will always be an artist. You don’t stop being an artist because you’re not on someone’s payroll. Making art is who I am. I make it for me and I make it because it’s fun and I enjoy it. It’s fun because it’s not informed by a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (another age 7 dream).
All this emotion and reconciliation came from opening a USPS box containing a 39-year-old doll in a pink polka-dot sundress from Japan. I gave that box of dreams a hug. It was time to start the next chapter of my life.