This is my first professional headshot, taken in 2001. I was finishing up a graduate program that in hindsight was probably not the best suited for me despite working with and growing to love some of the most talented people I’ve ever been privileged to know. It feels like 6 full lifetimes ago. Or versions. Like computers. That’s Colleen 3.0 in the photo, and right now we’re on 9.4 or something.
A few years later, I would pack up what I could leaving a trail behind me of things that never really got sorted out, and move to New York City. I love the city. It nearly gave me a nervous breakdown, but I love it. I love the sounds of it, the busy-ness of it, the adventure of it. I feel a certain internal energy being there. I made some of my dearest friends in that city. It’s also a double-edged sword. My highest highs and my lowest lows are all contained in that city.
Looking back is like watching a movie of someone else’s life and experience. Since that photo I have married, divorced, and remarried. I have taught high school, I have worked as an actor in both New York and on national tours. I have launched and successfully maintained a career in Irish music, recorded 5 albums, toured the world, moved to three different states, and arrived here at this place where I am growing cut flowers and living a life that is wholly opposite from the one that very scared 25 year old thought was headed her way.
Sometimes you don’t get to control where your life goes. For all of the yogi tea platitudes or Instagram motivational quotes that we absorb every day, sometimes where you find yourself at any given point is just a result of a series of decisions that you only had part of a say in. And you’re making the very best of it that you can. And in the rare case, like my own, you find yourself in a spot that you had no idea would make you as happy as it does. Despite all of the grief and hurt and work and fear encased in the steps that moved you from one side of your life to another, this is exactly it. You are now walking in stride with the people that were always going your speed. No one is waiting for you to catch up, no one is dragging behind you. There is no one that needs you to be anything other than what you are, and when you do occasionally encounter those people, it is increasingly with curiosity rather than the previous and familiar shame of inadequacy.
I’m going to write my own yogi tea tags. Except I really learned to resent yoga by the time I was 25, thank you conservatory theatre training. So it’ll just be tea. Or maybe just tags. Or maybe I’ll just say it here and be done with it. Meet yourself where you are with as much compassion as you can muster. If you’re like me, unresolved bits and pieces of your past lives will creep up and the familiar wave of fear and embarrassment will wash over you. It’s worse in the winter. But forgive is an active verb, like struggle or love. And it applies to yourself first. Put your hands in the dirt and nurture something. Create some quiet in between the bits of activity of your daily routine. You’re enough, you’re enough, you’re enough. And you’re not too much, which is just code for not enough. Ask for help when you need it. Part of meeting yourself with compassion is honesty. Cultivate an honesty within yourself. I don’t have (or want) kids, but I have made so many choices in my life, and learned so many lessons the hard way and several years after I was expected to, that I could be helpful for anyone who may need a kind word or a steady arm for a minute. So here’s mine if you need it.
Here’s a photo of me from just a month or so ago in one of my favorite places on the planet, taken by my favorite person on the planet. Colleen 9.4 is pushing 44, a little more cautious about people, a little more confident in myself, hanging out with that lady and a couple of fish like it’s no big deal. I’m probably never going to stick to writing about just flowers. Flowers are beautiful, and challenging, of course, and there are brilliant growers writing about flowers all over the internet. I’ll write about flowers when there’s something worth writing and not when it’s a blatant branding attempt. But around all of that, I’ll probably stick to writing about life. Because we all have one of those.