Fun fact: My first job was at a candle store at the Galleria mall. I was sixteen years old and my older sister had hooked me up with the job. (Thanks, Sis!)
In that candle store, I would fantasize about being an artist and being able to create the things I’d only dreamt about but was too shy to express. I always was only obsessed with being perceived as “good” but never with getting better. At that age, I imagined I’d reach some level of creation where everything was perpetually flawless and adored. When finally, I’d be understood. One day, I bought this bear we had for sale. His name is Pierre Le Bear. He’s obviously an artist. And I was obviously sixteen when I bought him.
This was also around the time I began developing debilitating anxiety. I mean that in the purest sense of the word: being out in public paralyzed me with fear and kept me from doing a lot of things. There were so many times I’d need to buy like, I don’t know, shampoo or food or something but the act of standing in line at a store and waiting made me BOLT. I’d leave all my stuff in a basket or cart and leave the store.
So, in case there’s some blessed soul out there that has never experienced anxiety, let me sum it up for you: it feels like you’re frickin’ DYING.
I would get super sweaty, panicky, dizzy, weak, my heart would beat OUT. OF. CONTROL. I’d detach from my surroundings, everything felt surreal. IT SUCKED.
So, yeah, working at the mall. Imagine that!
The thing was, I LOVED going into work. The candle store was its own little oasis, my refuge from the crowds I’d scurry past in Macy’s or up the escalator. As soon as I walked into the cloud of perfumed air, I was at ease. Even in the middle of Christmas, with crazy crowds and wild customers, I LOVED IT. It was its own little sanctuary.
My coworkers really helped. I can’t imagine how annoying I was as a teenager but some of those coworkers still talk to me so, God bless them!
Some customers would come in and walk right out before I could even greet them.
“Whoa, that is STRONG. How can you stand it in here? I’m getting a headache, I’m outta here…” they’d say, overpowered by the fragrance. It made me wonder what their homes smelled like. I always felt like these kinds of people sucked and lacked imagination and probably whined about arbitrary things like their dog licking their face or the temperature on the east coast.
Anyway, a lot has changed in seventeen years but Pierre still hangs out with me when I make stuff. I only get terrible anxiety about 10% of the time now and I think a large part of that has been the opportunity to just BLAH about what I think and feel about things. I got the word “Create” tattooed on me because that has absolutely saved my life. Being able to feel stuff and put it outside of me has been therapeutic in so many ways and essential to my mental health recovery.
And I still have a stash of candles I burn ONLY when I’m creating stuff. I’m happy to report, I’ve been burning through a lot of candles.
To donate to the Vanessa Needs More Candles to Live Fund, please visit…. jk. 😉
I’m off to make stuff now, byeee.