Diving Heart First

“Diving Heart First” self-portrait of author Bonnie Obremski

“Diving Heart First” self-portrait of author Bonnie Obremski

Six months ago, I quit my job. I didn’t know what I was doing, but an inner force animated my lips to form the words “I’m leaving,” as I sat in my boss’ office one day.

Friends advised me to wait but, after living with myself for 35 years, I’d learned that kind of slow transition is impossible for me.

The underpinning of my decision had something to do with two family gifts that offered me some savings—a first for me. The thing was, even with the beginnings of a savings account, I could not envision it ever containing more than that opening balance, which could drain at the first sign of trouble. My job offered a manageable pace of life and paid the bills, but it was hard to envision a path to leadership. I was beginning to feel my age. I thought employers wouldn’t find it cute anymore that I’d had 20 jobs, spanning everything from ice climbing instructor, to journalist, to tall ship sailor and sailmaker. I have a loving partner and no dependents other than the cat. I felt ready to find purpose and legacy in a career—and I was starting to realize the employer I was looking for might be myself.

But my certainty in quitting also stemmed from the creative support I feel from my community. Before moving here, I had not lived in any one place continuously for more than two years. Now, it’s been five. Port Townsend is not known for affordable housing or well paying jobs, but it’s my home because I found its people willing to offer me bounties of kindness and encouragement. With that, I couldn’t help but wonder if this might be the place to create the job I want.

I also feel it’s only fair to mention however risky it may seem to quit my job, I recognize I am white and therefore benefit from a society that has its foundation steeped in the oppression of non-white people. I know this recognition does not absolve me in my decision to use the resources I have to lift up my own voice in a time when I could do more to lift voices that have been forced even deeper into silence than my own. Saying all this is not meant to diminish the sacrifices and hard work of my family members who invested in my future. It’s to say we live in a time when we are called upon to widen our perspectives. And I want to be a part of that, I suppose, as long as it does not keep me from doing things like quitting my job to pursue my dream.

But here’s the thing, my own voice is what I have to work with. It’s my starting point, it works for me in exchange for food, it’s my way to get to that place where I am doing better for me, for other women, and all the people who are filled to the brim with unexpressed grief.

So what did I quit my job to do? Well...art….basically. As I went through the mechanics of setting up my business, called Storyborne, things began to take shape. Now, this week, I’m celebrating a weighty milestone: a performance event I’ve taken to describing as a “multimedia personal storytelling extravaganza.” (Heart Stories) Members of our community are stepping forward, almost all of us for the first time, to express personal stories in a way that feels true to the teller, whether that be in spoken word, poetry, mime, music, dance or visual art. To me, this work feels necessary, and while I find the business model that can keep this engine running, I have taken on contract work in writing, photography and project management. So, with the ongoing support of my community, I will write, photograph and project manage my way to taking events like this one to the next level—diving in heart first.

Self-portrait by Bonnie Obremski

Support Storyborne via Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/storyborne

Embroidered Heart Pendant designed and stitched by Jan Packard

Velvet suit designed and made in the U.S. by Sugarpuss