In February 2014, I experienced a milestone moment.
It happened during the first couple of weeks during our 7-month stay in Cape Town.
At the time, I was in a very positive frame of mind. I was in the process of deconstructing my old life and asking myself some tough questions about who I really was (and who I wasn’t)… what was important to me (and what wasn’t important) and – of course – what I wanted out of life (and what I didn’t want).
It had been a long, slow journey of rediscovery after a decades-long self-imposed prison sentence of mask-wearing, people-pleasing and pretending.
Journals, art books, gratitude notes, stories, books, music, poetry, encouragement from dear friends, deep conversations with my husband and lots of time spent with my loved ones… had all played a vital role in pointing me in the right direction. Each one of those things unlocked parts of me that had been shackled for years and… in a way… they set me free.
In February, 2014. I was happy. My family and I had recently returned from a 6-week South African road trip… followed by an epic 2 month journey around the United States. Our life was drastically different to what it had been like a few years earlier. For the first time in years, we felt as though we were finally living life on OUR terms…
As a family – everything was going really well.
But for me – personally… I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.
Sure – I was wife to Nick… and mom to Morgan and Joah… and those are, of course, critical parts of my make-up… but… I knew there was more.
Who was “Heather”….?
Apart from “Nick’s wife”… or “Morgan and Joah’s mom”… or “Linda and Bob’s daughter”… who was Heather?
In February 2014… while we were staying in a beautiful little apartment in Noordhoek that overlooks Long Beach… I sat down at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee, some paper… a couple of pens… and I started to draw.
I drew a sketch of a little girl.
Messy plaits… scratches and scabs on her knees… a mischievous grin… and – I wrote: “Hello and good greetings, my name is Hat”.
Here is a pic of that first sketch:
And it hit me.
HAT! Of course….!!!
That’s who I was back then… before I began obsessively trying to fix myself… and fit-in… and change everything about myself in my desperate, misguided attempt to be found acceptable by others.
It was a nickname given to me by my dear friend, Tracy Straughan (back then, her name was Tracy Askham). She came up with the name partly because I was a bit mad (like the Mad Hatter) – but also – because I absolutely LOVED wearing crazy, interesting hats. I had a whole collection of them. A vintage hat box too. Tracy also liked that the “H” for “Hat” matched the initial of my first name.
So, Hat it was.
All my school friends called me “Hat” (and those I’ve kept in touch with over the years still do). My sister adapted the name to “Hatster” (and has called me that for as long as I can remember).
Back then… I had a dream. I dreamed that I would be an artist, poet and storyteller.
But… my dream never materialized.
I set it all aside in order to become all the things I believed I was supposed to become: respectable, responsible, practical, sensible, well-behaved, lady-like…
I set it all aside so I could get a REAL job… (because this is REAL life)… and blah-blah-humbug…. (long story – but it’s all in the book).
In February 2014… when I drew that first little “Hat” illustration… and when I wrote those “I am Hat” words… was the first time that I fully remembered who I used to be.
That one illustration became two… and then three… and then four… (and eventually – it became 80).
And now – it’s finished.
And it’s at the printers… being printed… (thanks – of course – to a whole bunch of awesome-incredible peeps who funded my crowdfunding campaign!!!).
Writing this book was not only therapy but… with every page… it re-affirmed what my heart already knew: THIS is who I am… and THIS is what I’m meant to be doing.
The book – in a way – is a visual diary of my “process”… the process of re-discovering (and finally embracing) the person that I am… my ME’ness… my MUCH’ness… my HAT’ness.
It wasn’t conceptualized or created in the way that one might normally create a book. I didn’t wake up one day with a plan to write and illustrate a book about my life. The whole thing just kinda… evolved.
The book evolved… and I evolved with it.
Even I had no idea where it would lead… or how the story would end.
I took it day by day. Writing… recording… remembering… drawing… and – in the process – becoming.
Originally – I thought I’d add my illustrations to one of my art journals. Or maybe I’d blog about the process… or laugh about it with a group of friends. Originally – I had never intended it becoming an actual… published… book!
I mean – an illustrated book (a poem!)… for adults? Weren’t illustrated books only created for children?
What was this thing that my process was creating??
But here we are. 80 pages and one finished book later. Crowd-funding, pre-orders, letters… stories… connections with people from all over the world who resonate…. and even a movie deal on the cards.
Who would have guessed?
In a beautiful way (that far surpasses what I could have imagined or expected)… we are back in Cape Town.
I put the final, finishing touches to my book… on the exact same kitchen counter where the journey began in February 2014: the little apartment in Noordhoek with the beautiful sea view.
Oh – and did I mention… I was born in Cape Town?
In a way… it feels as though I needed to return to my roots… even geographically… for this story to unfold. Cape Town has always reminded me of my young, carefree self. Perhaps I needed the mountain, the fynbos and the smell of the sea to reconnect with the creative little girl I once was. The person I was designed to be.
Here’s a picture of me – of “Hat” – in my early Cape Town years:
Kinda speaks for itself, huh…?
As a footnote on this Milestone Day: a huge, resounding, deeply-grateful thank-you to every person who has sent words of encouragement and support. And – of course – to everyone who backed my book-printing crowd-funding campaign (your goodies will soon be in the mail). To Tracy Baggott – who has been an anchor of support (and the Organised-Queen) and who has been SO patient with me!! And – of course – to Nick and everyone else who believed in me LONG before I learned to believe in myself.
Want a book? Click here to find out how you can get one.