This morning, I met with Annie over coffee. She doesn’t have a cell phone, so she mentioned in her e-mail that because she was taking the bus to meet me, she might be a little bit early or a little bit late and wouldn’t be able to let me know which.
So when I arrived at the café, I looked around to see if she was there. (Note to self: finding someone in a crowded café when you don’t know what they look like is not an easy task and to think it might be is naive). Of course, she had been there all along. And of course, I hadn’t seen her. So I proceeded to sit outside waiting for her arrival. About twenty minutes passed. It’s striking to me how dependent we’ve become on our cell phones. Technology opens many doors but notably slams others shut in its gust.
Then she came outside to find me.
Not too long afterwards, a fantastically engaging conversation ensued for almost two hours. I quickly learned that Annie is a wonderfully down to Earth human being. I felt truly at ease chatting with her.
After graduating from high school, Annie went to college to enter the travel tourism industry. The idea of travelling and getting paid for it was just too good to pass up. So she traveled around for a while. Eventually, she needed a change, so she started working in fitness. Then, after a while, another change presented itself and she began working in nuclear energy. An intuitive career path thus far, no? It gets even more intuitive.
She was flipping through a magazine one day when she stumbled upon an advertisement for a registered massage therapist certification course. After becoming a massage therapist, she moved to Nelson, where she started a health and wellness co-op with her friends whose careers ranged from nutritionists to naturopathic doctors to psychiatrists — all people who work toward helping people stress less and live well, as she put it. Then, out of the blue, Annie received a scholarship to film school. So she packed up her things and moved to Vancouver to learn the art of film. Not too long after this, she started working in the film industry.
Part of what has given Annie the freedom to explore whatever it is that calls her is the independent lifestyle she has adopted and created for herself. She is fifty three years old. She’s never been married. She never had kids. And she’s perfectly content with it. (This latter disclaimer shouldn’t be necessary but society has seemingly deemed it so). It’s not that she actively made a decision to not get married, and she still hasn’t ruled it out as a possibility. She just never met the right person. And she would rather spend her time alone than be with someone who isn’t a good fit for her. “There is nothing lonelier than being in a relationship with the wrong person”, she said.
Lately, Annie has been dealing with some painful health issues after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The pain used to be worse, but she can feel it getting better. She believes that the pain is present for a specific reason — perhaps a teaching of sorts, a lesson to be learned, to be felt, to be processed.
She’s spent the last while mastering the art and science of fermentation, creating delicacies from kombucha to kefir to sauerkraut. Where her business card used to say “filmmaker”, it now says “fermentor”, scribbled in pen. I remember staring at it when she gave it to me at Creative Mornings, confused and curious. It turns out she’s always been passionate about health and wellness and is most recently interested in it from a nutritional angle. She’s currently reading “Food Blogging for Dummies”.
“One day”, Annie told me through a big grin, “I’m going to win the lottery”. She told me she would spend the money on creating a foundation that would fund projects of people with really good ideas for helping others and making the world a better place to live. She already has a name for the foundation: “All for One”. And she’s started recruiting people for seed funding on a hypothetical list. She said it would be kind of like planting a garden. People would bring their own seeds, their own ideas, and she would provide fertilizer to help them grow into a beautiful garden of positive change.
Annie once participated in a meditation retreat. She had never meditated before but thought she’d give it a try anyways. It intrigued her. The retreat was twelve days long, and the participants were not allowed to talk to each other or make eye contact with one another for the entire time they were there. They weren’t even allowed to read or write, or to engage in any of the distractions of life aside from the distraction of the mind. It was about journeying inward toward the deepest manifestation of the self. I told her I thought it was ambitious of her to jump into such an intense program without ever having dabbled into its art form before. “It was more like naive”, she said, smiling.
Her advice? “Worry less and stress less. And have fun. Have serious fun. Worrying and stressing are useless endeavours. Having fun is the opposite of useless… it’s useful. Ah, the word ‘useful’ is so bland. We need a better word for that”. I couldn’t help but laugh. Her train of thought was endearing. I feel so lucky to have spent some time with Annie today and I hope that I was able to capture her charm a little and share it with you.