A Letter to the Discouraged, Disappointed, Despairing

How reliving past grief is helping me through new despair.

The most painful artistic setback happened to me three years ago today.

That’s when my car was broken into and my personal treasures stolen.

A sketchbook with poems and scribbles, a journal full of my unfiltered feelings, the perfect toque and most significantly my hard drives.

Hard drives containing my personal photographs of family holidays, and pictures of my old life.  

And my tenderly created photography portfolio.

“My life’s work!” I choked out between sobs.

I was on the cusp of launching Dust & Breath—the vision of my heart—after the dissolution of the marriage that stole my creative identity. Having poured money and time into branding and website design, I was making an investment in myself like I had never before.  A leap of faith.

Then, my “life’s work” was gone.  

Photo of a smashed driver's side car window.

I felt defeated. Foolish for taking a chance on myself. I felt scarcity closing in on me, believing the lie that what I had lost could never be re-created.

When you’ve just spent all of your savings to build a dream that you’d starved for a decade, you have no choice but to keep going, whether you feel like it or not.

When you’ve just spent all of your savings to build a dream that you’d starved for a decade, you have no choice but to keep going, whether you feel like it or not.


After combing through trash cans, dumpsters and back alleys in downtown Kingston, I accepted that my treasures wouldn’t be recovered.

Although everything taken from me was valueless to the thief, they were my treasures and proof of my story. A loss to be grieved.

My grief was held by my people: my partner, my mother, my closest friends, and even my clients. They never made me feel silly for weeping over lost pictures of myself at nineteen, or the photos taken with my first “real” camera.

In being held safely, I could see the opportunity before me, as well as the loss behind me.

Shortly after the incident, I sent this text message to my love:

“I’m fairly confident that I’ll never get my stuff back. I’ll feel waves of sadness over the loss for a long time, I’m sure. BUT, I want to use this experience to light a fire under me to rebuild the portfolio I’ve lost. The portfolio of my dreams. Scorched earth is okay, if I replant the garden that lives inside me. No more scraps of a life imagined by someone else. I get to decide what the work of my heart looks like. I get to create a life more beautiful than I have vision for today.”

Without knowing it, that’s what I’ve been doing these last three years.

Building slowly, tentatively, without direction a lot of the time. Getting restless, discouraged, distracted, but moving forward all the same. These three years have brought me the challenges of COVID; risks and rewards; leaving my job and making the art I could have only dreamed of making all those years ago, when I felt trapped and isolated in a world I didn’t get to make. 

I had mostly forgotten this incident, until I came across a picture of my smashed car window. I think that snapshot found me at this time for a reason: I’m battling my way through an experience that’s filled me with discouragement, disappointment and at times despair.

As I recall the pain of my life’s work lost, I’m making notes to relay to my despairing self:  

  • Find your safe people.
  • Grieve your loss.
  • Fumble towards new dreams and remind yourself that on the other side of this pain, “There is a life more beautiful than you have vision for today.”

If you’re in the midst of disappointment, discouragement or despair, my wish for you is that you can live inside the same hope I’m clinging to today.

I’ve spent the last three years rebuilding my dreams and repopulating my professional portfolio. Can I share some of my recent work with you?

mother and sun playing