Last year for my birthday, I won a solo round trip to Yellowknife. I was pretty scared to go alone, but I knew that this was something that I had to do: to experience something new and scary for the first time by myself. I’m so glad that I did push myself because I ended up falling in love with the city, not to mention that travelling alone now seemed less scary to me.

With this in the back of my mind, I decided to make a pact with myself, for each birthday leading up until my 40th I plan on doing something that scares me. This year I decided to be literal – a month before my birthday I sent my husband tickets to Legends of Horror without mentioning my experience to him until after he secured the plans for the night.

The last haunted house I went to was in Niagara Falls; I must have been about ten at the time. My cousin, who was 8, was insisting that we go through it together. I don’t recall why I agreed, but my adoptive father already paid for the ticket, so I HAD to go. I started okay, strolling – letting my cousin walk ahead for anything to jump out at us. Then, one of the actors brushed up against my leg – I didn’t even recognize someone was standing there, so he got me pretty good. I froze on the spot and cried my eyes out. My cousin was trying to tell me to continue, but I told him to find someone to let me out. He saw the manager and I was escorted out of [probably] the smallest haunted house that ever existed. I was embarrassed and ashamed – both my cousin and adoptive father didn’t let it go for the remainder of the day. It was that day that I decided “I can’t do this.”

Fast forward to October 7th at 7 pm, and we’re waiting outside of Casa Loma about to go into an hour excursion. My heart was racing, I knew I would undoubtedly encounter some other fears inside, but I took joy in the fact that no actors would be touching me (It’s labelled on the events page). A family was walking in front of us, and they brought their daughter, who I swear was the same age as me when I went through the Niagara haunted house. She held both of her parent’s hands and was walking at a glacier pace while saying “I can’t do this – I can’t do this.” At one point I got down to her level and explained that I use to do this sort of makeup for people all the time and there’s no need to worry. It’s just people like you and me. Proud of myself and that moment I continued. However, I had no idea what was waiting for me in the next room: clowns.

I dropped to the floor so fast and started to bawl my eyes out like a ten-year-old girl. Yes, after giving fantastic advice on how not to be scared… I was scared shitless. I closed my eyes as my husband brought me back up to move on. He said “Yeah, you have every reason to be scared here. Let’s go on”. Having my husband there with me made the event more manageable. I even broke one actress’s wall by asking how she was doing and she responded. At the end of it all, I had such an adrenaline rush that I almost wanted to do it again. ALMOST. Instead, I curled up at the side of the wall telling myself “You did it. Never again”IMG_5061

After pushing myself for a couple of weeks, I decided to take some time and just relax. I’ve been working on several projects and didn’t want to overstretch myself – I’m pretty thankful that I did.

During this small break, I took a look back on my writing career. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always kept a journal, but when I entered high school, I got into poetry. My English teacher at the time, Elaine Smajovits, was so incredibly supportive of my writing. Whenever I had a break or lunch, I would try to hunt her down so she could read my latest entry, always offering advice and a smile. My poetry was reflective of my relationship issues with my adoptive father and I never really shared it with anyone. I did try to share some short stories with my adoptive father and then step-mother, but they were quite dismissive and didn’t offer the support that I needed. I was told to find a “suitable career” and believed writing wasn’t viable. I started to doubt myself, and my dream of becoming a scriptwriter seemed too far-fetched.

When I graduated high school in 2004, I was published in an Anthology “Under the Poet Tree” and was quite proud of myself. My “parents” didn’t even bother to buy a copy of it. I swept my poetry under the rug and went into communications/film studies to hopefully find a better calling. One of the electives that I was able to join was script writing, and I figured I should at least give it a shot. My teacher wasn’t the best and constantly asked why I wanted to be a writer. With no self-confidence, I wasn’t able to answer her. When she initially introduced the course to us, she mentioned she doesn’t give anyone A’s, but I was pretty confident in my final submission. The highest grade I received was a “C,” and I took that as my answer to no longer pursue writing.

I look back on all of these factors and want to hit myself over the head. I let my atmosphere and anxious thoughts get the best of me.

Even at my lowest point, I would continue to write as a form of therapy. I have countless journals and a ton of notebooks scattered around the house. Knowing that this brought me joy I knew that I needed to do something about it. In November 2016 I decided to break some barriers and start a novel. This novel has been years in the making, and I finally had an “Ah-ha!” moment on how to formulate it properly.
Doing it part-time for 16 months brought on some new anxious thoughts, thinking that no one would want to read it but I pushed myself. I was back in my element.

On top of that, I started this blog four months ago and finished/submitted a short story to a local contest. I didn’t want to overstress myself and took last week off from my blog to focus on my novel. I’m glad I did because it’s now in the hands of my proof-reader – I feel ridiculously accomplished.

When I look back on my trials and tribulations, I’m not overly upset with myself that I took a long break. Its normal for us to go through anxiety when starting something new. Remembering Elaine Smajovits’s infectious smile was the push that I needed to jump back into it. Thank you for the push!