Day 296 - Catherine (1st person I approached)
October 23, 2014 - It was a late night for me. I had been out for the evening and I wasn’t able to start looking for today’s story until after 10pm. In typical style, I wondered if today would be that one day that I’d be traipsing around for hours looking for a stranger to chat with. I decided I’d head to the grocery store and get a few things, drop them off at home and then head back out. As I walked toward the store, I saw Catherine, walking just ahead of me. I managed to get her attention without startling her, explained what I’m doing, and she agreed to chat. We took a seat outside the grocery store.
Catherine was born in Red Deer, a city at the midpoint between Calgary and Edmonton, in Alberta.
“I’m the youngest child of five,” she told me.
“I have two sisters and two brothers. The oldest is eight and a half years older than I am. My mother had the first four kids in quick order. Then she took a break. I was born four and a half years after the fourth child,” said Catherine. When she was two years old, the family moved to Calgary.
“Because my brothers and sisters were closer in age, they had a closeness between them. My oldest sister was in her teens and I was still a little kid. As we all got older, they would go to the same parties and did things together. We were definitely close as a family,” she said.
“I like to think that we were the strange Catholic family that lived in our neighbourhood. There was always lots going on at home and it was loud.” she said.
“In my teens I became interested in feminism and my parents, who had raised us as Catholics, didn't understand me at all. I hated school, and I hated where we lived. I couldn’t figure out why my friends didn’t see it the way I did. I’d tell them that I wanted nothing to do with the cowboys that went to our school. I’d say to them 'You don't want to stay here do you?' They’d say things like ‘what do you mean? Why would we move?’ The only thing that saved me was knowing that one day I would leave,” said Catherine. She did enjoy drama and art in school.
After graduating, Catherine started working.
“I got a job working in retail. Then I worked at Safeway, in the bakery department. Back then it was a union job and the pay was good. Of course I didn’t save any of it, but I made good money,” she said. When she was twenty-one, Catherine left home.
“It was either going to be Toronto (Ontario) or Vancouver (British Columbia - BC). Two of my sisters had moved out here. One was living in Whistler, and the other was in here in Vancouver. She said I could move in with her. I wasn’t ready for a city the size of Toronto, especially without knowing anyone there. Not on my own. I at least had the comfort of family here in BC,” she told me.
“I partied a lot and left being Catholic behind. I loved the bigger city. I thought everyone should leave home and move somewhere else just to experience what that felt like. I had a job and worked, and I enjoyed myself,” she said. Catherine then made some connections and some friends and became involved with a comedy sketch group.
“We were doing these shows, and performing. Then it turned into more of an arts type performance. Although I didn’t know it as performance art at the time,” she said.
“I took a bunch of acting classes, for film. But nothing came of it, really.”
Four and a half years ago, Catherine went back to school.
“Even though I didn’t like school when I was younger, I felt ready. There’s something to be said for working for a few years and I felt ready for university. I was more focussed and had a better idea of what I wanted from it. I could never have gotten from school what I have, if I went ten years ago,” she said. Catherine is her final year of studying Theatrical Performance at Simon Fraser University (SFU).
“It’s a kind of a unique program at SFU. The student's kind of create their own program. There are two different steams, the production and the performance. I took the performance route. For the first two years I worked with the same ensemble for a part of the program called ‘Black Box.’ Every two weeks we had to create and produce a show, perform it, and then start the next one. Every two weeks. There’s a professor overseeing this process, and that’s how we're graded. This year I’m directed my first play. I’m very happy with the way things have turned out, and the choices I’ve made,” she says, smiling.
“I’ll be happy when school is over, yes. It’s been an intense and exhausting time. I’m in a relationship and that can be hard. Sometimes my partner has had to come second. I’ll see him and it feels like it’s been three months since we saw each other. He’s a creative person and he understands. He has been so supportive of me,” she says, clearly. They have been together for sixteen years.
“I’m the only one in my family who has pursued anything creative. I’m definitely the odd duck in our family. My poor parents, they just don’t get what it is I’m doing. They don’t understand. But they have always stood behind me, and have always been there to support me. Even when they don't have a clue what it is I’m doing,” she says. There is love in her voice, and sparkling in her eyes. #notastranger