I came into the world with a fierce determination to live my life on my own terms.
According to family lore, I was born head then fist first. My father, who was in the delivery room, said, "she's a fighter!". He'd been raised by a professional boxer so he had an inclination of what a fighter looked like.
My mother left my father when I was 8 months old so I grew up without knowing him but that line was tossed around enough that it stuck. Along with another one of his lines, "she's got wolf eyes". Apparently that's what he saw when he looked into my pale grey blues. That was the depth of our intimacy; a recognition of my fighting spirit and the declaration of the wildness in my eyes.
Not sure if it was the recounting of his words that shaped me into the wild child that I was or if he really saw right to the heart of me, on that very first day of my life.
Either way, it holds true. I am a fighter, in the survivor sense of the word, and there is a wildness within me.
Even though I grew up in the nation's capitol, a city kid, I always felt a deep connection to nature and animals. I loved feeling the earth under my feet. Whether it was lush green grass, moist soil or hard cement, I wanted to absorb it through my soles. I spent most summers nearly naked, always barefoot, and often halfway up a tree or in a body of water of some kind - creeks, pools, lakes, puddles, you name it. I lived recklessly, flinging myself into life with complete abandon, always seeking adventure.
Miraculously, my mother opted to not tame my wild, she didn't want to smother the fierceness that burned so brightly in me. It couldn't have been easy raising a feisty, wild child like myself. But she intuitively knew that I needed to find my own way through life, I needed to fall down, fuck up, and grow from my mistakes. And she let me. So much gratitude for that woman!
She let me dress myself as a defiant toddler, still not knowing how to get my arm through a sleeve. She let me roam the streets of my neighbourhood, by myself, from the time I was five. She let me drop out of grade three because my wildness didn't fit the curriculum (I went to a new school in grade four). She let me determine my own schedule; staying out as late as I wanted, going to bed when I wanted, eating what I wanted, when I wanted. I was pretty much the ruler of my own life by the time I was 11. And I did an ok job. I got up every morning on my own, made my breakfast, packed my lunch, put the coffee on for my mom and got myself to school on time. I went straight to my babysitting job every day after school, then home to make dinner for myself, leaving the evenings and weekends free to do whatever I wanted, on my own terms.
I did that until I was 14, until the weight of that fierce independence, coupled with the social pressures of a 14 year old girl in a hormonal haze (trying way too hard to be an adult), knocked me down. All those years of pushing my way through life caught up with me. I needed a break, and I needed a little help.
So I begged my mom to send me to boarding school. Structure and discipline were not hallmarks of my childhood but I realized that they were essential to my success in life and since they weren't available to me at home, and I didn't have the tools to cultivate them on my own, my 14 year old self decided boarding school was the best solution.
My mother, dumbstruck by my request, agreed. Then she hustled her butt off to make it happen. Putting me through boarding school on an artist's wages was nothing short of remarkable. Once again, much gratitude for that woman.
I loved boarding school. I loved being part of a community. I loved the intimacy of living with my fellow students and teachers, sharing meals and weekends together, it was like a never–ending sleepover. I felt supported in a way I had never experienced before and was able to really thrive academically and athletically. The compromise was that my wildness had to be put away. It was relegated to the shadows, it just didn't fit the boarding school mould.
Even the wild rest.
I came out of that high school slumber with a renewed need for freedom. I had been bolstered by the structure and security of my community life and was ready to spread my wings and explore the world.
I was chompin' at the bit to travel.
My roommate from boarding school and I hatched a plan. She bought a VW camper van and we hit the road. We spent two seasons weaving our way through the states. We drank tequila and slept under the stars in the New Mexican desert with boys we barely new. We stayed up all night to watch the sunrise from the top of the Colorado mountains while the morning dew sparkled on the high meadow grass. We followed the trails of Blues musicians through New Orleans, getting lost in the rhythms of the streets. We learned how to jump–start the van when the starter broke while travelling along the Mississippi and into the deep south.
We hopped from festival to festival, one gathering after another, building a tribe of like–minded souls along the way. We picked up hitchhikers who became boyfriends and explored the deeper regions of our hearts. We fought, we laughed, we cried, we danced, we howled under the moon, and talked 'til there were no more words.
My wild was wide awake and totally free. I was at home on the road. Every day was a new adventure, an untold story being woven moment by moment. It was magic at its best.
Eventually, my friend turned sister, had to head back to University. But I still had a burning desire to reach the Pacific, the ocean of my birth. So we parted ways. My boyfriend and I carried on, hitchhiking our way to the California coast. He and I travelled for almost two more years together, had a baby, and then started new chapters of our lives separately.
The wild in me continues to reach for ever greater expanses. It has been my greatest companion, my beacon, my guide, illuminating the way to my heart. It is what supports me through my hardest days and holds me in times of need. It ignites my soul, it's my inspiration and my essence. Simply put, it is me. I could not exist without it.
“The doors to the world of the wild self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés
To all those wild hearts out there, keep being true to the essence of who you are, swing wide the doors to your wild self, and allow the fires of your spirit to burn brightly so that you may be seen and met by those that are looking for you.
Loving you fiercely.