On a cold and stormy January morning in small town Newfoundland, a petite, measles covered baby girl with a bright red blister on her dominant thumb from self-soothing in utero, was born to a pair of young, anxious yet committed parents. Named Michelle Marie, because it was a favourite of her mother’s, she, her mother and father bunked with the maternal grandparents for a little over a year before embarking on a cross-country road trip of adventure and hope. With the prospect of lucrative work in the north, the little family settled into their first home in the summer of 1980 after driving from small town Deer Lake to the remote community of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in Betsy, their Chevrolet Chevette.
Growing up in Yellowknife meant short seasons of endless summer nights where the darkness never truly fell, where bug repellent was the only perfume, and lakes and rivers swelled with fish, fowl and other native wildlife. Balanced by long, cold hoar-frosted winter days, with pitch black nights that backdropped breath-taking views of celestial Aurora Borealis displays. Although the community was somewhat isolated, opportunities ran deep for individuals and families alike to immerse themselves in nature, activity, community, and culture.
Blessed with the support of her parents, she engaged in countless extra-curricular activities that kept this young girl invested, active and in a positive frame of mind from sun up to sun set. But upon shifting into high school at the fragile age of 16, and with her doctor’s recommendation for anti-depressants, Michelle fell into despair. As much as the medication was meant to support the common chemical imbalance of Seasonal Affective Disorder, those ignorant to the lasting effect of their snide comments and hurtful actions further impacted the once vibrant and cheerful young girl and her disbelief and dislike of herself. She felt alone, powerless, angry and afraid. Even with the console of her caring family, every day thereafter, she’d wake and put on a face that matched the responsibilities of her days. Some masks she wore were pleasant and kind, while others had her do things she knew to be mean and wrong in her heart, but she did them all the same. She just wanted to fit in. And, yes, she had good friends, friends she still has today, but still with the darkness of depression hanging over her head, she felt ugly and incomplete.
Upon graduation from high school in the mid-90’s, Michelle left that small town and embarked on another adventure, this time, a solo trip guided by curiosity and craving. The first stop took her through two years of college in a Performance Arts program where she developed an understanding of projection and portrayal. She learned how to read and memories lines, how to move and interact in a way that looked natural and fluid, and how to properly ‘put on a mask’ so as to impersonate someone she was not. She also learned the value in speaking her truth, taking the lead, and trusting her intuition with the people and places she encountered.
Next, she made her way across the country to Atlantic Canada where she bounced between jobs for nearly a decade. In that short time, she held seven different careers that all taught her about what she didn’t want to do with the rest of her life, yet imparted her with unexpected gifts of experience, wisdom and skill. During that time frame, she also took random trips to Europe, the UK and US, as well as repeat expeditions of outdoor adventures and getting lost in the woods. She learned how to pack the necessities, how to use a compass and read a map, and how to fend for herself which sometimes meant asking for help.
But it wasn’t until she embarked on a journey that took her away, yet inward, where she truly started to understand the truth behind her curiosities and cravings. This trip took her to India, to the remote village of Neyyar Dam, where she learned how to turn up the volume on the song in her heart. For years she had been listening to her head and the endless soundtrack of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or strong enough. It was in the rigorous and often times exhausting practices of asana, pranayama, meditation and study that Michelle learned to tune her ears inward and begin discerning the melody of the sounds within. With a second visit back to the Motherland less than a year later, what she wanted to ‘do’ with her life became more and more apparent. She wanted to help people learn how to do what it was that she was deciphering – to hear and understand the uniqueness of the innermost voice, and to practice living in harmony with that.
Nearly fifteen years later, now as a wife, mother, teacher and colleague, as someone who has made it though separation, miscarriage, cancer, and deficit, slowly, but surely, day after day, I continue to dial in and turn up the volume of my heart while helping other do the same. For who I am is beyond the shape of this body, the necessary medication, or the titles I have chosen to wear, but rather in the repetitious actions that guide me to further comprehend and value all that I am not, while revealing the truth of all that I am.