I was at a workshop this past weekend where I had to do a visualization exercise to determine who my inner leader or "captain" was. Eyes closed, I was asked to envision myself in a "safe place" to become grounded. I visualized lying on a towel on my back at the Scadding Court Community Centre Pool in Toronto; damp from a recent swim, broiling myself in the sun. A pleasant cacophony of families and funemployed millennials hummed in the background. Next in the visualization, my inner captain was to emerge and give me an important gift. Clad in an ensemble that screamed "dawn of the late '90s" -- cream-coloured sleeveless turtleneck, black wide-leg trousers and a delicate silver cross necklace - my captain approached me poolside as none other than the blonde Chosen One herself: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I could feel my eyes rolling underneath my eyelids. Of course. Of course!
The first "of course" was due to the fact that for two months now, I have been gobbling up this cult classic with the unnecessary intention of finishing the series before summer's end. You know when you've binge watched a show to the extent that reality and TV collide and all of a sudden you start to care about and relate to your TV friends more than your real friends? And your TV friends become so deeply embedded in your subconscious that they show up in your dreams every other night? Have you been there? That's where I'm at. So it was no surprise that Buff circa season five (which I recently finished) would show up in this visualization exercise. It also felt totally tacky that my guiding light would be a '90s TV star, but I held back judgement and let her in.
The second "of course" was deeper. The second "of course" spoke to the importance of Buffy as an archetype that has profoundly influenced the person I am and the person I want to be: a fearless leader, a kick-a** fighter, a bubbly and occasionally ditzy Valley girl with a quick wit, and a deeply and perfectly flawed human being, fiercely devoted to those she loves. The complicated heroine. To quote the show, "She saved the world. A lot."
I watched Buffy religiously when it premiered for the first time almost 20 years ago. Our whole family was so obsessed that when we eventually moved to a hobby farm years after the show ended, my dad named our very first Hereford cows Buffy, Angel and Spike after our favourite characters without any hesitation. My earliest nightmares featured the terrifying "Gentlemen" villains from the episode "Hush" in season four. Creepily floating through Sunnydale in their black suits and stiff, wide grins, I still find this episode particularly chilling to watch at 25.
I was 12 when the show ended, on the brink of my teenage years and beginning to come in to my power as an artist and influencer. I was taking on creative projects like filming horror movies with friends in my spare time, and situating myself as a friendly leader among my classmates in a way that would earn me the title of Valedictorian at my Grade 8 graduation. But I was slaying my own demons during these years too: crippling anxiety that caused me disruptive stomach problems, issues with body image, loneliness, and the beginning of an addiction to doing and pleasing that would repeatedly hunt me down in years to come.
It seems perfectly fitting that I would come back to this show this summer, having just turned 25 in July. I've also found myself drawn to graveyards lately: an environment Buffy finds herself in frequently as the slayer of the not-so-totally-dead. On a recent trip to Brooklyn, I finally finished The Women Who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés - a book that's the closest thing to a personal bible I've ever found -- while sitting on a bench by a pond at the Green-Wood Cemetery. Weeks later my best friend and I walked through the Toronto Necropolis after he announced the news to me that he would be moving across the country to pursue a dream job. Endings seem frequent as of late, but it I'm evolving into something different as well.
There's been an incredible shift in the way I see myself. Having recently committed to pursuing training as a life coach, I've become obsessed with the nuances of the human condition and the monsters we have the potential to become in our attacks on others, but perhaps even more frightening and universal, in the attacks on ourselves. What's blocked my ability to own up to my purpose in life is a constant battle with demons that just won't die; the one with the sharpest fangs is a lack of trust in myself. But what I'm realizing is that these uglies may never turn to dust. They are deeply embedded in who I am and I have the ability to let them take over at any moment. What I can do is acknowledge them, respect them, but fight them off when they do not serve me. I may always have monster in me, but I keep on slaying on so I can help others in their slaying.
At the end of my visualization, Buffy met me in a graveyard with her gift. The gift was a large sword: a symbol of power, courage, strength and protection. She said to me, "you don't have to use this, but please know it's here."
I know. Finally and profoundly, I know.
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