In March 1998 I met the guy who would eventually become my husband. It was grade twelve of high school and it was at a friend’s house party. Her parents were out so everyone came over, including a carload or two from the neighbouring town, Josh in one of them. He apparently saw me before I saw him and asked his pal who I was.
“Oh, she’s the Mayor’s daughter, Jessica Smith.”
“Wait, the Jessica Smith who wrote a letter in the newspaper to Mike Harris about clearcutting?” *
“I don’t know, man,” was likely the reply as cheap beers were then doled out. From there he made a point of talking to me. This political punk of a guy and me, the politically-charged Mayor’s daughter. Not long after that we started dating.
In high school I remember just doing things. I remember that if I thought something was a good thing, I would do it. I got involved. I played alto sax in band. I joined student council as Environment Minister. I started an Amnesty International club. I sat on a town committee dedicated to the low-level radioactive waste issue that consumed our small town and I was the only member of it under the age of forty. When Conrad Black and his people started buying up – and therefore “destroying” – small town newspapers, I jumped in to help. Along with some great residents of the town, including Farley Mowat, we started our own newspaper, The Town Crier, and I wrote for it. If my heart was in it, I didn’t seem to think twice about jumping in.
My Dad had been a professional hockey player before we were born playing all over the USA and Europe, including in the NHL. He then worked a full-time job and always had dreams of doing other things, later serving two terms as Mayor of our town. My Mom was a working woman and she raised the three of us to grow into strong and independent women. We were taught that anything was possible if you set your mind to it. In high school I dropped French class to take photography. I even got pulled into the principal’s office because of it. That woman tried to persuade me to not drop French. Telling me that it would be more beneficial to me than silly photography. But I was determined and something in me said that it was the right move so I defied her and photography became my thing. When I got accepted to Ryerson University’s photography program, I was mostly shocked (and so giddy to show that principal!). Only fifty students got chosen every year and little ol’ me was one of them. Nearly fourteen years later, photography is still my main gig. That strong will and determination worked. They really worked.
The world is a really messy place these days. Especially if you live in the United States or in it’s vicinity. It’s messy and the things that I am witnessing scare the pants off of me. But all of this mess is stirring something in me and it’s stirring something in a lot of people. When I stood at the Women’s March a couple of weeks ago, I felt something inside of me shift. Something familiar. Being surrounded by thousands of people fighting for the same thing brought me back to those roots that I once held onto so strongly. If something isn’t right, it’s up to you to make it so. To fight it because we all deserve something better than what this world is currently providing.
I read an article recently that said that while it would have been nice had Hillary been elected, everything would have continued as it had been rolling along. And that would have been fine and good but truthfully, fine and good are no longer enough. With this new 45th President, a lot of anger and frustration is coming to surface and with those emotions, action is happening like never before. People are standing up for their beliefs. For the equality of people. For the sake of their country and world. And those emotions, those stirrings, those changes, that coming together, would never have happened otherwise.
I guess that the point of this post is to ask you this: What are your roots? Where did you come from? Who were you back then when you were younger and the world seemed to be a brighter? When we were all a little more naive. What were your ideals and your goals? And how far away from them are you now? When we are kids, we don’t see differences in people. Our friends and classmates and teachers are all people. Equal people. When does this change and why?
We get so caught up in the wildness of life that we often forget who we actually are. About where we are going and about where we want to end up. Why did we stop? Why did we let these core values of ours slip away? Or is it that we have simply allowed them to lay dormant? My roots included believing in a good and healthy world, and in standing up for what is right. Those roots brought my partner-for-life and I together, and those roots will be what make us work to ensure that the world is a better and just place. These past couple of weeks have reminded me of that and I am going to do everything in my power to keep them strong.
*For our 1st wedding anniversary my Mother-in-law mailed us that very letter that brought us together and it was maybe the most thoughtful gift I have ever received. It now hangs in our home as a constant reminder.