Hello, my name is Ruth and I have a sneaking suspicion that the little voice inside my head, the insecure human being full of questions, constantly in search of answers, is not far off from being a duplicate inside the head of many others.
This is why I write.
I beleive this little voice of mine is already connected to all that surrounds me. It is not original, unique, or different from the next persons, except for the fact it comes from my own perspective. My entire life has been a journey of self discovery and dot connecting, and setting my words free onto the page is just my way of making sense of it all.
This is my story, and all the roads traveled in my attempt to answer one of the most perplexing questions,
What do you want to be when you grow up?
*It's LONG...so a coffee is highly recommended!
THE BOOK OF RUTH
The Aussie Kid
Brought up in Australia I was a tom boy as a kid. I loved being outdoors, climbing trees, riding my bike, and daydreaming about running away to mystical fantasy worlds. My wardrobe consisted of jeans, shorts and T-shirts, I hated dolls or anything 'girly' and only ever played with boys until grade 3, when I became best friends with another tom boy.
I was also a collector and observer of nature. I would spend hours admiring leaves, staring at tree trunks noticing all the textures and patterns in bark, scouring the ground for cool colored stones, and bringing home buckets full of cicada shells. Everything about nature fascinated me. I loved our family vacations at the beach where I would explore the rocky nooks, wade through catch pools, stare in wonder at the sand crabs, investigate dead jelly fish, and collect sea shells.
I wouldn't say childhood was a blissful time for me, but these are the memories I like to treasure. And even though I had a strained relationship with my dad (typical step-father scenario) it was because of him that I developed a love for science fiction and futuristic movies, which later turned into my love of horrors. He was the one that introduced me to Dr. Who. It was one of the few special things we did together, watching it each week on the little television that sat on top of our piano.
Growing up and through my teenage years I was extremely athletic. In high school my code of dress became tracksuit pants and jumpers. I played volleyball, softball, girls soccer, field hockey, tennis, and ran track. I loved running, especially long distance. While I was never a great student, or rather I hated anything academic so didn't try, my sport activities were everything to me. Placing 3rd for long distance in a State championship was one of my highlights.
But if I'm being honest, my memory of High School is mostly a tormented one.
I was an extremely shy kid and with just a few close friends, I was one of the invisible ones in my year. My saving grace was when an English teacher recommended to our class that we start keeping a journal. She assured us she wouldn't be reading what we wrote, that it was more to help us explore and express the written word. And while most kids ignored her, I took her up on the challenge. Since it wasn't academic, nor homework, nor would it be graded, it was perfect. No expectations! Guidelines that suited my rebellious nature to a tee.
Writing became my gateway to release all of my teenage angst. I poured everything, and I mean everything into my journals.
Photography was another outlet for me as a kid. It became an extension of how I saw the world and forced me to think about permanence, time, and how quickly moments disappear. I still remember the day I fully registered this. I was maybe 8 or 9 years old gazing out the window from the back seat of our family station wagon, watching the trees wiz by and realizing in awe "this moment is now gone."
Photography has since represented a way for me to capture moments. Cliche I know but the simple truth. It fulfills my need to hit pause and reflect. And is why in recent years I enjoy adding textures to my photos to give them more depth and emotion, giving them a timeless feel.
The below photo has always been one of my favorites. Taken with my box brownie when about 14 or 15 years old, it's of my siblings during a family vacation at the Grampians.
Following high school life got a bit tricky.
I loved sports but knew it wasn't a realistic career option, and definitely knew I wasn't suited to teaching it. Standing up and talking in front of students? No thank you. Photography was also not realistic, and too expensive. So while I didn't know what I wanted to do, I did know without question or doubt what I didn't want to do. I didn't want to be a secretary, or work in an office, or be restricted to a 9 to 5 schedule. I wanted something that made me feel free. That I knew.
I always admired people who had an entrepreneurial spirit. Those with a passion to use their gifts to build a business and do things they love. One of my mother's closest friends, a potter and and water paint artist, earned her living doing just that. She worked from her gorgeous old farmstead, held gallery showings, and was living the dream. Her life was my definition of freedom but the question for me was how do I get there? Where do I begin?
At 18 years old, restless and ready to begin my search, I left home.
Like a gypsy I moved around a lot, never settling in one place for too long. I made new friends, tried new lifestyles, and worked mundane jobs. Over time I began to let go of my sporty side and explore my femininity. I even dabbled in fashion and modeling for a short time, wearing heels for the first time ever! All the while I searched high and low for something that felt right. For my life's calling.
There was one point at the age of 19 when I thought a door had been swung open to my dream job. I was offered a position as a cadet journalist with a growing newspaper. It was an amazing opportunity that let me strengthen my photographic skills while pushing me outside of my comfort zone. And though it was great experience, time eventually let me know that I wasn't cut out to be a journalist. But the best thing in hindsight was the little nudge it gave me back toward my creative aspirations.
Free Spirited Twenties
I made the decision to go back to studies and take a fine art course when I was 21 years old. It was the birth of my art appreciation. It gave me a solid foundation and showed me what I was capable of, opening my eyes to brand new ways of seeing. It introduced me to life drawing and let me embrace the human form as a thing of art and beauty, I played in different mediums and got to learn many new skills.
The unfortunate thing was, I could never quite figure out how to leverage my studies onto the next thing. Hopes of an 'art filled' next chapter eluded me and it wasn't long before my folios were neatly tucked under my bed, and I'd stepped back out into the wilderness.
The next few years became a long, winding personal journey filled with poor decisions and lessons learned as I rebelled against becoming a responsible adult. It wasn't till my mid-20's that I slowly made my way back to my creative yearnings and decided to give studies another go. I applied for two courses, one in writing and the other in fashion design. By this point I was embracing the bohemian rebel in me, dressing in long flowing skirts, tank tops, and throwing my hair back in hippie scarves and bandannas. I was up for anything! Turned out both courses accepted me but in my mind the choice was clear, I wanted to write.
I quickly learned however that writing novels compared to writing personal truths are two very different things. Making up stories didn't come naturally to me, and try as I will my teachers only saw disconnected story lines that made no sense. Poor grades soon wore thin with the final straw being a 'C' that I received for a personal piece. Being graded on something so close to my heart crushed me and I decided that continuing would have only been to my detriment, so I quit.
One day during a down period, when I was feeling particularly directionless, I had a pivotal moment. Stopped at a traffic light an ad came on my car radio.
"Would you like to build your confidence and meet new people while having fun learning how to act? Call, blah blah blah..."
I'm not usually one to be taken by advertising pitches, nor consider acting (of all things!) but for some reason this pitch was different. It drifted into my core and spoke directly to me. It felt like something I needed, and for how lonely I was feeling it gave me a glimmer of excitement and hope. For the rest of my drive home I memorized that phone number like my life depended on it.
From that day forward acting was my new creative endeavor. It did everything the radio ad said it would. It built my confidence, gave me a new circle of friends, and it was fun! It was like playing and being a kid again. Intuitively it felt right and gave me new found courage, like I was capable of doing anything. I took every class I could find, got my headshots taken, signed with an Agent and began doing extra work and bit parts. Soon I yearned for more and made it my mission to apply for every performing arts program in the city of Melbourne.
Looking back I am certain there is such a thing as divine intervention because my passion for acting went beyond my own comprehension. It took me to heights I didn't know were possible and drove my life forward with such velocity. I will never forget the day I opened my acceptance letter into the highly respected drama program at Rusden. I was one of just fifteen selected. I guess the only way to explain such a windfall is... it was meant to be.
Matters of the Heart
This time my journey back to study was a whole different experience. It felt right and I with every step I took, I wanted more. I was like a sponge and by the end of my 2nd year I yearned for bigger challenges. My appetite to learn and grow drove me to apply for an international exchange program, to which I was not only accepted but honored with a partial scholarship. With my new path set in motion I headed out of the country for the first time ever, just months after turning 30.
Landing in America I thought I knew what to expect. Movies, television, news... Australia gets a good dose of America every day. But the truth is I may as well have landed on the moon! From day one I was swept up in a whirlwind of culture shock and adjustments. While New York was beyond exciting, being the foreigner with an accent imbued such an odd sensation within me. And as I juggled student life with being a tourist, it was no longer about my growth as an actor but rather my journey as a human being. I found myself an outsider looking in, surrounded by new ways of thinking and being. Yes it was fascinating but I have to admit, not always comfortable and by the end of my first semester I had made the decision to jump ship and complete my final semester in London.
Then came the but...
Just as I was practically packed and ready for my great escape, jumping ship turned into never quite making it on board as I fell into the arms of my future husband.
(Photo Credit: taken by Billy Larson, Feb 1997)
Next came a year of dating and country hopping (riding visitor visas as long as we could!) until eventually time was no longer on our side.
A decision had to be made.
What began as a wild and romantic story to share with friends and family back home ended in the evolution of my next chapter.
Life in America
One chilly, moonlit evening in February, 1998, we exchanged wedding vows by candlelight.
Witnessed by just a few family and friends who filled the tiny yacht club, our night was a simple affair... finger foods, a chocolate passionfruit wedding cake, and a groovy old lady jamming out on the piano.
But for me, the night was no simple affair because in one fell swoop, America was now my home.
Honestly? It was like setting up shop in a bed of roses... it was good and amazing but so damn prickly. Everything familiar to me was gone. And while I had a man that loved me like no one ever had, we still fought like cats and dogs in those early years. Our cultural differences were vast, as was our upbringing and entire belief system. Seeing eye to eye was a challenge but like two jigsaw puzzle pieces we eventually found our groove.
Settling down I put my bohemian gypsy to sleep and embraced the American workforce with vigor. I blazed a path to office work (the one thing I swore I'd never do!), toned down my appearance to dress pants and blouses, and searched for that one magical position I could turn into a career. My never ending quest to utilize my skills to the fullest propelling me from one job to the next.
Fourteen years later I was physically and emotionally spent. The artist in me screaming for her release. It was like my life had been ambushed. The free spirited Aussie I once was now just a vague and distant memory. I wasn't sure if I had grown up or simply veered off into Timbuktu. Sure, they were invaluable years. They taught me a lot about myself, people, and life in general. Coming out the other end I not only had a bunch of new skills but had truly acclimated to the American lifestyle. Just maybe a bit too much.
In 2010, a trip back home to Australia for my mother's 70th reignited the artist in me. It inspired my return to photography. With camera card overflowing, I arrived back on America soil with renewed perspective and determination. Over the next several months I taught myself how to layer and embed textures using 'antique' applications in Photoshop. My goal to sell a nostalgic collection of photographs on Etsy and become the artist I was meant to be.
(Otira Homestead, Phillip Island)
But I quickly discovered that selling my work wasn't as simple as I'd hoped. It didn't matter that my work was beautiful or meticulously presented, my problem was lack of business know how.
Determined to figure it out I devoted the next few years to learning the ropes.
I threw myself into various creative business ventures from photography, to jewelry making, to design work. Spent hours a day diligently researching, refining, and implementing. I blogged and wrote weekly posts. I signed up for an online business school and surrounded myself with like minds, met hundreds of passionately driven women all striving for the same thing... to build a life of their own. The type of freedom I had been yearning for since the day I left high school. I even made a little money here and there but never anything significant. Not enough to say, "I have arrived."
I'd love to say that after three years of tireless persistence I eventually became wildly successful. But sadly this was not the case. I petered out is more like it. Following a long bout of sheer exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy and self doubt, I let go of my insatiable desire to run my own business. I convinced myself that I was not cut from the right cloth. That to be my own boss I needed to be a leader (something I have never been) and that I should humbly accept my limitations as a "creative" person. Wave my white flag, and move on.
Okay, this is where I need to stop for a breather (for both of us!).
I'd love to tell you all about this new chapter in my life, but turns out I'm still wading through it... three years and counting!
However I will say it has been a journey of truly finding myself, tapping back into my creative gifts (especially writing), understanding why my past creative efforts failed, and why giving up is no longer an option.
Also, in a sense, I have been "de-America-fying". Re-calibrating and re-claiming my own uniqueness... which I've come to realize got lost somewhere during the past, oh, 20 years in America!!
But I promise when this chapter comes to an official close, I will return to share all the juicy details. In the meantime, feel free to follow my blog posts.