Where We've Been - Part Two August 18 2018

When depression robs you of interest in life and then you get it back, it feels like a beautiful gift. A little like spending joyful time with a long-lost best friend. Eventually it came back for me. I  picked up the pieces and made apologies for what I had dropped and neglected during my long period of withdrawal. I started finding a new way forward.

Since life is never straightforward or easy, beating depression is still my battle and always will be. On a night that I was out-of-sorts, unhappy in my skin, and lost for a way to calm down, I picked up a pencil and tried to draw. My older daughter draws non-stop and that night she looked so peaceful drawing at the kitchen table that I decided to join her. Having once been an avid drawer myself, I had made little attempt at drawing since high school. That night I was surprised at how relaxing it felt. Relaxing is something I would love to improve at, so I carried on drawing after that.

I discovered that what I most wanted to draw were the ideas I had for Sunrise Girl shirts which never got made. In my head, I saw a girl running across a finish line. She was pumping her hands into the air proudly, relishing her accomplishment. There was also a girl playing chess. She was sitting down behind the board but rising a bit as she went to make her move and place her piece. She had a smile on her lips that came from the satisfaction of spotting the perfect strategic move and being in control of the game. Finally there was a younger girl, maybe five, riding a tricycle at full throttle. This girl was bursting with the exuberant energy of mastering bike riding and enjoying the new speed it brought her.

I set to work trying to capture these girls on paper. It took a while, but slowly they started to resemble the ideas in my head. My daughters also helped. Sometimes with simple encouragement like when they’d appear at my elbow, look at the twenty-third draft of the running girl sitting on my desk and say, “that’s great Mommy! You’re doing a good job!” Other times they modeled for me, willingly getting out our old Learn to Play Chess board and following my instructions on how to sit and where to place their hands, allowing me to physically create and see how my chess playing girl might look if she sat in front of me.

It was around this time that someone asked me semi-publicly and quite rudely if “I had any ambition to do anything with my life.” The question stung so sharply it felt almost like a physical pain. There, laid bare for all to see, was the worst view of myself. The one I had always worried others had of me. 

While I do have my own personal definition of success, which mainly consists of trying to do good in the world so that it’s a fraction of a better place for my having existed, I still easily succumb to the idea that success is based on the more traditional standard of big (and usually monetary) achievements. The standard which the person who questioned my ambition obviously believed in.

I teared up, and regretfully did not have a witty, biting, or otherwise satisfying retort that we all wish we did in such situations. "If only that person knew," I later thought, "how much ambition I have!" Later still a question settled in my mind, "so why wasn’t I doing anything to follow those ambitions?"

With my depression at bay, the only true answer was fear.

So here I am. The running, chess playing, bike riding girls I want to see come to life are in the works. My desire to represent girls in their many beautiful skin colors, in their many amazing abilities, in their many hopes and dreams is fierce. My dream is also to hear from young girls (and their parents) about what they'd like to see made available for them to wear, so that I can work to make it happen.

However fear and insecurities don't go down without a fight. So, my plan is that this time around I will openly admit to them, take them out in the light of day and share them with others, examine them for truth, and hopefully rob them of their power. If that doesn't work, well, at least I will go down trying!

 Next, the goal of representing girls authentically...