Jake_Inset_1I think I knew from about 14 on where I was headed. It just turned out to be a strange and dangerous journey getting there.

Some of my most treasured memories are as a teenager, arriving early to play the stage piano at my high school. I never allowed myself to follow intuition’s voice and fan my musical embers. Music was a pleasant hobby to be put aside for the more practical career pursuit of medicine. I saw myself working overseas through Doctors Without Borders; helping heal people lacking hope and resources around the globe.

I completed my Biochemistry Degree in 1996. My interest in music hadn’t waned and composition became an escape from everything. The pressure of a double major, achieving a high GPA for medical school and two sexual assaults that had stripped my soul and confidence raw. Following graduation, I accepted a medical research position in Calgary AB, Canada, which transitioned quickly into a combined Medical/Masters degree program on a scholarship. Still, I felt empty. I struggled with the urge to relinquish my scholarship and withdraw from the program. I was so afraid of being a failure and a disappointment. I felt alone and depressed.

At 24 I let go of medicine and shifted my focus towards public relations and tourism. I accepted a position in Education at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller AB, Canada, developing and presenting programs, songs, hikes and tours, using entertainment to educate the public about dinosaurs and ancient history. Music remained too much of a passion to resist and I began looking for a band to play with in Calgary AB, Canada. ‘Zengerra’ had a successful two-year run and then, as bands do, broke up.

It was the final straw. My health was fragile, I was hooked on prescription drugs, my mind was a mess and I fell hard from the height of academic and professional success to the streets of Edmonton. The scars on my wrist are a constant reminder of how unwound I’d become.

I wondered homeless with other lost souls, wearing my ragged identity stitched together out of blame, failure, rage and a victim mentality.

I lost my creative spirit, my purpose, my job, my home, my pride…myself. After a long period in a psychiatric ward, my friend who had stood beside me through the most selfish and desperate acts I committed, was ready to walk away. The spark within me came to life. The Hope Mission in Edmonton became my new home after I was released from the hospital. I was rescued by the generous support I received. I registered in a three-month intensive therapy outpatient program and began to crawl my way out of the hole I’d dug myself into.

I started to play music again on the old piano in the chapel at the mission. Other shattered women often joined me. It didn’t take long to realize I had the ability to inspire and help lost souls, including my own, on a much deeper and more profound level than medicine ever could have offered.

What if I could help heal people simply by being myself and using my natural gifts?

I was ready for the next part of my journey and set out to seek a new perspective. I lived in South Korea for a year, drove enormous Ice Explorer buses and delivered interpretive tours on the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, worked in the oilfield as an Environmental Consultant and even found my way onto the decks of a cruise ship as part of the entertainment staff. Each position helped build confidence, experience and momentum toward the decision to entertain professionally.

I was overwhelmed by the amazing opportunities that began to surface, from being cast in “Rent”, to playing piano clubs and showcasing my original material in other venues.

I still struggled with various demons and confidence issues but no longer feared them and though I stumbled a few times, I never stayed down. My parents divorced , I underwent a hysterectomy, I lost the grandparents who had raised me and several relationships crashed and burned. Music saved me, just as it had said it would back at the Mission.

I haven’t forgotten.

I continue to volunteer and perform for events at Edmonton’s Bissell Centre and other charities.

I’m working toward developing my own non-profit foundation, Phoenix Dreams. I plan to use every resource and gift available to me, to help give hope to the hopeless. Eventually, I hope the foundation will provide funding for as many people as possible to find out who they are, and help them rise from the ashes of their own pasts.

Looking back over it all, I’ve had a lot of help. I think that no matter how silent and lonely the world can sometimes seem, there’s music inside all of us. We just need another heart in the room to crank up the volume.