It is a cold and misty November night; I am sitting alone in a warm and darkened bar on Prince-Arthur Street and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. 20 feet in front of me, Bif Naked weaves in and out of intimate stories and songs from her colourful past—completely enthralled and captivated, the 17-year-old me sits firmly in my subconscious. It is the most powerful performance I have ever seen.
The moment I saw Bif’s name among the performers as part of this year’s “M pour Montreal” festival I immediately knew that I was going to attend that show as part of my project. In fact, I even organized my schedule around it. There was no way I was going to miss this.
Throwing myself into the intensity and unpredictability of a year-long photography project, I have sometimes had to make compromises. Being a struggling artist is both a cliché and an unfortunate reality for me. Many times I have had to opt for the free festival offerings in order to lessen the financial burden of the project as a whole. This night, however, was not to be compromised—a perk of being your own boss!
It is now a week later, and whilst writing this I am still moved by the night. Clearly, the memory of her and her husband performing the songs I listened to over and over again as a young and impressionable college girl is one that will stick with me for quite some time. I can still remember screaming “we are the lucky ones dear” at the top of my lungs with my friend Caitlin whenever we needed to let loose. Music as a means of temporary escape. Bif exemplified everything we aspired to be: women comfortable in their own skin who weren’t afraid to speak their minds.
Over the years I lost touch with Caitlin, Bif, and my 17-year-old self. I discovered new music, made new friends, and thought I was growing up and evolving… I couldn’t be that silly little girl anymore because of the immense social pressure to be a responsible and respectable adult that comes with the transition from one’s idealistic 20’s into their supposedly mature 30’s. Over the subsequent years I have realized the importance of self-growth, that there is no one mold for everyone to fit into, and that the notion that one’s priorities are to be re-evaluated on every 10-year anniversary of their birth is ridiculous.
Still, I felt as though something was missing. All of this soul-searching and coming to terms with my demons and what do I have to show for it? The exercise has proved to be in futility, as I feel the fun has figuratively been sucked right out of me. In the end I felt like a shell of my former self.
I have been noticing, however, that over the last 9 months sparks of my former self have been popping up here and there. That, on occasion, I have been spotted screaming lyrics at the top of my lungs, jumping around, and just generally being silly. What was initially dismissed as momentary lapses in character are now undeniable. I now realize that I have room in my life for all of the parts of me, the 17-year-old me as much as the 34-year-old me.
And just so you know, the humour in the fact that it took me 17 years to become a 17-year-old, and a further 17 years to become a 17-year-old all over again is not lost on me.