But there’s a point, there’s a limit where we break
The current finds the quickest way
So let the river in, burst the damns and start again
Oh let the river in, the will of men can’t hold it in
Oh let the river in, as the blood beneath my skin
Let the river in – nature plays, nature wins
I hear the breaking of bricks and walls
I feel the rhythm of the water
Three years. Heart palpitations, tears at 3am, staying home for weeks at a time. Spinal issues that represented the loss – suicide – of my only support system. Anxiety that killed my spirit, and an unhealthy obsession with the very thing that would destroy my inner artist: Marketing. I was addicted to the very thing I resisted doing the most.
Plan after plan after plan. Failed plan after failed plan after failed plan.
A resistance to bringing in new clients. A resistance to happiness, I thought.
No more travel. From frequent flyer to homebody without a home. This would be my first trip to North America since 2015. Between then and now, I had been homeless, in a relationship with a man who made me weep on a daily basis, bed-ridden for months, and a citizen of 2 continents. I had been torn apart, and was a mere shell of the strong woman I had once been.
The one constant was my hunger to learn more about marketing – but the more I learned, the more I cringed and threw internal tantrums at the idea of implementing.
It didn’t matter that bills had to be paid. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know where next week’s food would come from. My inner child was so stubborn that I felt cornered more often than I felt filled. What was wrong with me?
I watched the world laugh and prosper, as I withered away on the inside, watching this inner child of mine become a monster who ruled me.
And now I was in Canada. I was only supposed to spend five days in the country, but the Universe had other plans.
I knew it when I landed, though. During my taxi ride from the airport, a little voice in my head – gut – went, “You’re going to see a lot more of this driver – and a lot more of this land.” I dismissed it, as we so often tend to dismiss our truth.
And now, here I was – three weeks after that day – on a hundred-acre farm with a family I hadn’t even known a week before.
I experienced real mothering, the stillness of an empty itinerary, the folding of laundry that had no other purpose but the expression of love, the stories of a life simultaneously filled with richness and routine, and the warm-hearted smiles only water signs can display.
But I had already fallen in love with the land after one week in Toronto.
From the Uber driver who went out of his way to protect a mama duck and her babies, to timeless lazy coffee in Kensington Market… from the airport security guard who called me “babe”, to the general energy of the city: I was in love with this land, and I had already vowed to make it my own.
I didn’t need blissful Dorchester open fields, Stratford welcoming vibrance, or the gentle accent – which I’ve already picked up in certain words – to know that I had fallen head over heels with Canada.
In a world where being black will get you killed – celebrating uninhibited joy, safety, and self-actualised happiness through hashtags like #blackboyjoy is something I happily witness online.
But I don’t think I truly GRASPED its meaning until I arrived in Toronto. For the first time in my life, I witnessed #indianboyjoy. I never even knew I had spent my life without it. On Canada Day, despite me holding space for the problematic and painful history that this day rests upon (and the things that continue to happen to Indigenous people in this very moment) – I also got to feel my heart fill up as I watched entire families of my fellow brown people run through waters that usually aren’t allowed to be waded through.
But all this healing didn’t do much for my marketing woes.
I was in debt, running out of money, and still refusing to stick to my marketing plans.
“Something feels wrong,”I told my incredible team, for the umpteenth time.
“Something is wrong.”
So I focused on the conversation I had been having with my hosts. Probably politics, or music. I’d lost track as I spiralled into my depressing thoughts and increasing anxiety.
Abigail – that’s Lady Abigail of Dorchester, to you – gave me a hug.
She was good at giving those. She’d jump with her front paws on your lap, as you struggled to leave your face unlicked by the towering wolf-like entity who thought she was a lapdog. Pretending to hate it but deeply loving it inside.
How I loved her daily greetings, as I’d cheerfully walk in, shouting “goodmorning!” to a family whose afternoon I was about to fill with conversation and laughter.
“People think that if you advertise everywhere, that you’ve made it,” my host Brent said.
“But it’s actually the opposite: if you have to advertise a lot, it may just mean you are in desperate need of clients.”
A light bulb went off. Advertising is necessary, yes, but he had made a good point: all the artists I saw as successful never advertised their services, while I had spent the last 3 years learning about every form of online marketing known to man.
What if my marketing – taught to me by people good at marketing – was wrong for me, because it took away from my art?
What if – just as my coaching had been a cover for my fears of inadequacy in photography – my marketing could be less of an advert for my services, and more for my work itself?
What if the very thing I kept saying I didn’t have the energy or time for – my personal writing and photography – was what would take me further?
What if, instead of long posts about how amazing my packages are, I could simply prove I know how to celebrate my clients’ lives…. by celebrating my own?
What if I could be my marketing, simply by being myself? What if exploring my shadows and expressing my truth through photography and words was enough?
What if my resistance was just my inner child knowing the truth: that I was more than enough, just as I am?
Turns out: my inner child was right all along.
I just couldn’t find my way into my truth because it was buried under layers of frost and lies.
But it is Spring now – and I am home.
Father’s eyes and my father’s smile
I couldn’t tell I was just a child
Missing memories replaced by doubt
Speaking tongues into my ear
Told herself what she had to hear
But did she ever think I’d never find out?
I was a stranger in my own skin
7 layers graced and wearing thin
I was a stranger in my own skin
Just 7 layers I’ve been hiding in
– Dotan, 7 layers