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  • Writer's pictureNora Kehoe-Clair

I'm an Unconventional Girl

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

My 2021 new year’s resolution? Girl, be “unconventional”

TW: Suicide

Note: Post-publication it was brought to my attention that my use of the word "girl" might be loaded for some people. I want to apologise if my use of the term or any other gendered language in my article causes offence. I use this term to pay homage to a favorite quote and the fact that I personally identify as a girl (in spirit) and a womxn. I am glad that we continue to diversify language to match our diversity. I try to use inclusive terms wherever possible but I do err and I am continuing to learn how to thoughtfully ensure inclusivity. I welcome your feedback in navigating these issues. Thank you.

I idolize the “difficult women” of the world, like those portrayed in Sharp Objects (2018) — the Camille Preakers with lines like “I’m an unconventional girl. That’s what you like about me.”

Difficult women show the full gradient in the shades of identity. While there is a legacy of simplifying female characters, they expand them to expose the human condition in a new way. And so I adopted the aspiration of becoming a “difficult woman” in 2020. Being less likeable in favour of advocacy.

Then 2020 happened and brought a whole new meaning to being a difficult woman. (It brought a whole new meaning to being difficult for everyone I think!)

I was difficult for sure. The person I was most difficult with? Myself. With a new scary but exciting chapter on foot, My newly incarnated aspirational idol is the “unconventional womxn”.

2020, the year of the death wish

I’ve developed a habit of articulating my, very lofty, yearly aspirations in imaginary idols I place on my yearly dashboard — frankenstein brides made up of pieces of women I admire. It has the utility that with one word I can remind myself of the values I am hoping to emulate.

At the outset of 2020, I wanted to be more like Roxane Gay or Gloria Steinem, the epitome of brave and complex wordsmiths. Instead I grew more scared, not only of writing, but everything. And the more scared I grew, the less I left the house, the less I wanted to work, talk, and eventually, live. I entered the year pretty low functioning already, but by November 2020, my lifetime mental illness (including diagnoses of GAD, MDD, SAD) had reached new depths I had never thought it would reach. I was off work, barely functioning, and unable to envision a future I could live with.

Before the clock struck 12

In 2020, I disappointed my idol many times over. I failed to function without the assistance of my understanding partner, I failed to foster a social life, I failed to advocate for myself and others when I had the opportunity. But despite my declining mental health, I did start to show a new side of myself by speaking up about my mental health and starting a working group for mental health initiatives in my workplace. Most importantly, after becoming incapable of working, I achieved my new year’s resolution by making a choice of self-love to pursue recovery and self-employment full time, a high-stakes choice that promises plenty of risk and some hope for reward.

By a hair, I meaningfully met my goal by making a “difficult” choice that, hopefully, my idols would make if faced with dire circumstances. I quit my job to (1) focus on recovery and (2) pursue self-employment and entrepreneurship full time. Before the close of the year, I resigned from my customer service job and took an offer of support from loved ones to enable me to take time off, an option that I know I am very privileged to have.

2021, becoming an unconventional entrepreneur

Becoming an “unconventional womxn” seems like a worthy new idol to worship. She is an unapologetic advocate for herself and for her tribe. She finds a way to work around her limitations by developing her strengths.

Among many reasons for taking on self-employment and entrepreneurship is that I have accepted I need a vocation that works within the limits of my mental illness. Finding a workable career is a cog in recovery that I take very seriously. My decision means asking for a lot of help and wholly giving myself over to priority (1) recovering from my lifetime mental illness. But this recovery is going to involve a lot of toil and trust, and a vital part of that is finding work that does not feed my mental illness, but that heals and accommodates it. For this, I need to think outside the box. That’s where the honeypots come in.

All the honeypots

The number one lesson I have learned from following other entrepreneurs’ stories is that diversifying is queen. One example is Melyssa Griffin. You can see from a cursory look at her website that she has a variety of income streams ranging from content creation to mentorship programs. She has monetised her content and brand over the years by focussing on a core group of skills and services while developing the skills to implement a new group of core skills and services in another area.

In the coming months, I hope to develop diverse income streams that will enable me to remain self-employed and ideally see me put food on my table and feed my wish for rewarding work. I am blessed that I have loved ones that support me, and a whole world’s worth of predecessors willing to share their knowledge. I enter the field of self-employment and entrepreneurship knowing I have a lot to learn. With no capital and a crude toolkit cobbled together with all the free and modestly priced resources I can find, I accept it’s a steep incline.

Tired, but not scared

Okay, so a bit scared. But sometimes fear can be used as fuel. With 2021, I turn to the challenge of living outside the lines but maintaining balance. My most valuable weapon? Depression has taught me my most valuable resource, it’s hope. Hope is the antidote. When my hope dies, things go dark. 2020 saw me hemorrhage hope, and I’m spending every day cultivating replacement stores. My wish is that someday soon I will have enough to throw around like confetti to others. I hope to share the lessons I learn to help those who find themselves in a similar predicament.

For now, it’s time to live by my choice and fly, or fall, to new heights in 2021. I am a “Jane of no trades” armed with fire in my belly and a glimmer in my eyes. Hear me timidly meow while I learn how to roar.

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