The year i turned 25

A Memoir about Sex, Anxiety and a Dog Named She-Devil

I’m sitting in the dry sauna at the Oasis de l’ile Nordic spa in Saint-Eustache, Quebec – a serendipitous surprise after all the rooms at the convention hotel were booked and work had to find another place for us to stay. It was fortunate we booked late because we are now forced to stay at this amazing paradise on a tiny island in the middle of Lac des Deux Montagnes.

I’m staring down at my swollen feet. It’s the third day in a row I’ve worn three-inch heels all day since coming back from summer vacation. I gave up footwear beach bumming around in Shediac, New Brunswick and sun-tanning nextto my pool in my new home in Beauport, a house I never thought I’d ever be able to afford. Even after all that sunny vacation time, I realize this is the first moment in a long timewhere I’ve been alone long enough to daydream.

I used to daydream all the time. Every morning in high school waiting at the bus stop and every afternoon on the bus ride back from school, nothing in my hands, nothing in my ears; hell, I didn’t even have a cell phone until I was almost 17 – and there was nothing else to do but follow my thoughts around in my head until the bus dropped me off at home.

Now I’m alone again, enjoying the heat and even the sweat it’s creating on my imperfect body. And for the first time in what must be months, I’m perfectly content daydreaming, mostly about my next writing project – how I’ve been anxious to get back behind the keyboard and write something literary.

After a few minutes, the heat becomes too much and I pick up my towel to make my way to the next pool, cooler than the first. The Oasis is truly what it says it is – I can wander from one hot bath to the next in between waterfalls, and small bon fires. My sweaty legs rub together as I walk, sliding against each other and remind me I’ve gained weight since I moved to Quebec, over a year and a half ago. Not an enormous amount of weight, but enough to bother me. Too much poutine, too little exercise – the result of too much change all at one time.

The pool is big enough to swim short laps and it feels good to move, not just because I know it’s working off those extra calories from Quebec cuisine and the very French tendency of drinking a lot of wine. There’s something about keeping my body busy that allows my mind to focus. I think about the book I just published five months ago and the girl in the red dress. That was my book’s conclusion: a girl who dares to wear what she wants, still desperately fragile and wary, but who is finally autonomous. Ten pounds heavier or not, the dress still fits. And you know what they say – if the shoe (or the super hot floor length gown) fits…yes, I still wear it. I am autonomous. It’s not as glamorous as I thought it would be, but it’s a nice relief to feel like I can make decisions without asking permission first.

When I finally read the finished manuscript, this story about being single and self-conscious in my twenties, I was surprised that even as the writer, I enjoyed it. Maybe because it was a chance to organize all my semi-developed and scattered thoughts I’d had throughout that year.  Reading the full text, I could see themes I hadn’t intentionally written; ideas that fed into others that just emerged without my being aware of it. I learned more about me reading my own damn book, than I did the whole year I spent living the life I wrote about. What the hell?

I realize now there was validity in what I was doing, writing a daily take on my life at 25, honestly and with vulnerability, even if I didn’t know then what I was creating. I realize now I was making art.

What is art? It’s personal, and yet it has some wider universal appeal. Art is inflammatory – how many people look at art and say they don’t understand it? Inherent in art is something that challenges, which is why it’s so hard to define: a piece of work that reveals something innately true about humanity, while challenging you to understand what it even is. It would be easier if we understood, even a little bit, humanity.

I sure don’t – not anymore than I understand my poor, swollen feet, or the reason I felt obliged to wear high heels. I know the cold pool I’m now wading into is a refreshing reprieve from the hot tub, and although it’s stinging my legs, it’s doing a world of good for my sore feet. All these insecurities I have about my body, all these desires to be a good journalist, a better writer, like a cold bath for the weary, or a needed splash in the face – it’s my agonizing attempt to understand humanity at the same time I change it.