I volunteer at a wildlife center. I wear the whole not-so-flatteringly colored requisite volunteer shirt. The much-used, older pair of jeans. And shoes for that work, only, because I am paranoid about bringing home any zoonotic diseases to my animals.
Other than a few people who know this, however, it’s not really, well, documented. I mean, I say I go, and no one has doubted my word, but I realized the other day that I had no pictures of any of the adoptable exotics or myself at the facility, at all. So, while I was holding one of the birds, I asked one of the staff members to snap a picture of the two of us, using my phone. Then I put my phone in my pocket. Picture forgotten.
Fast forward to later that night, while having dinner with my family, visiting for from out of town. I took my phone out of my purse, and thought, this would be a great picture to show someone! It actually proves I’m there, working and helping out! So I flip open my phone, and scroll through to the photo.
And I start to dissolve into tears.
I don’t see the 30-something who is unhappy with her job. Who needs to lose some weight. Who has no makeup on. Whose hair is pulled back into a not-so-flattering _something_. Who needs a makeover. And more.
I only see one thing: The look of absolute, rapturous joy on my face.
I can’t stand it. I knew I was happy there, and I knew I was happy starting on my coursework for the next phase of my life. And I know that I’m working on getting another job to be closer to family, have support, etc. I know what I am working on, who I am, and what my future is (insofar as I can plan it).
But what I didn’t realize was that I was missing that joy. I have never, ever seen that look on my face.
I feel like a stranger in my own soul. Someone was communicating to me through that picture: the 5-year-old Unavocis who wanted to work with animals but somehow didn’t follow through. The person whose outlook on life didn’t include my now-ever-present cynicism in all matters related to the position I’ve held for the past 4.5 years. When did this girl get so lost? She evidently hasn’t died, thank God. But when did this bright-eyed, efferevescent, find-joy-in-life person’s presence begin to dissolve from my outer core?
I will say something on this blog that I never, EVER thought I’d put out there. I am quite anonymous, thank you very much, and I will always be. But seeing that picture of myself really did something to me the other night. I have been thinking about it ever since. Whenever I try to develop a coherent thought about it, I literally start to ball.
And the thing about it is? I’m not sad. Not at all. I am crying for profound joy. Profound, rediscovered joy.
The sub-title of my twitter account (and blog?) were something along the lines of “finding my voice.” How odd are those words, now, looking at what I’ve been through the past 12 months. I have decided what I want do, and have moved mountains to do so. And though there are a tough few years ahead, more schooling, etc., I’m serene. I’ve discovered my joy. And truthfully, I think it’s been the first time in a very, very long time. Perhaps since I was a child.
I was abused as a child. I will not go into detail, but I do remember it. I have never discussed it openly. But it definitely occurred after I had made my first out-loud statements about wanting to work with animals. I will not make any claims, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, around the age of the abuse, I began to lose that joy.
I have always been a pretty happy person. I am a good actress. Not having soul-filling joy doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. And I have been searching for that joy for years now. I do believe God is an important part of finding joy, but what I was seeking wasn’t God. God has always been there. I’ve known that. I was seeking to recapture Joy.
I do not discredit anyone on his or her own path, and their own way to find Joy. Each person must have their own journey. But my journey has begun (for I truly think that I have rediscovered her, but it’s just started, this process of rediscovering her and respecting my true calling), and while it has been a lifetime in the making, it did, quite literally, begin with a picture.
In my case, a picture was worth a thousand tears of Joy, having been rediscovered after a very, very long absence.