This week, the loss of Gord Downie hit hard for a lot of people, but I never thought it would impact me the way it did.
I was by no means a die-hard Tragically Hip fan, though one of their albums was the neverending soundtrack at work for an entire summer at Dairy Queen. But watching the news today as they recapped his life, his accomplishments and his continued selfless acts of kindness, it was overwhelming. Probably the coolest part was the manner in which the reports kept coming back to one main point: HE LOVED BEING CANADIAN. He was so clear on who he was and how he wanted to live his life – helping people, fighting to make his country even better. This made me start to think…who am I? Talk about an intense question, but here is what I came up with:
I am a bossy sister. I am a great friend and at times a really annoying driver. I am an actress. I am that girl at the Manitoba social who loves to dance and I am a partner to the kindest, most stubborn Italian man alive. I am Métis. I am a Dateline addict. I am an athlete that grew up playing hockey who is now learning to golf and curl. I am talkative. I am a proud member of the coolest club I never wanted to be part of: ‘Living with Multiple Sclerosis’. I am always looking on the bright side. I am that person that loves their dog more than anyone else on any given day and who visits their grandparents as often as humanly possible. I am a daughter. I am a lover of all that is stationary and can be bought at Indigo Books. I am a clutz. I am 100% an animal helper that will pull over to save any animal on the road, even the highway and even if it is not possible. I am a hater of all Mayonnaise. I am the girl sent home from the sleepover in 3rd grade because she laughed louder then everyone else at 2am. But most importantly, I too am an extremely proud Canadian. Why should any of that matter? Because who knows how many of those opportunities, passions and individual quirks I would have been granted had I not been born in Canada.
The next thing I found so inspiring was his commitment to his artistry.
The Tragically Hip was known as ‘Canada’s Band’ though I bet they were given many opportunities to venture out in to the waters of international success …if only they would not always write about Canada. But Gord Downie and the group never strayed from their style of songwriting. They chose to highlight the good, the bad and the ugly of Canada’s young life as a country, inspiring people through musical storytelling. This is beyond inspiring. This really hits home for me, working in the film and television industry.
Being a Canadian actor is interesting. From the moment you start working, you are taught that you will eventually have to move elsewhere. That’s because the story goes that if you don’t leave Canada, you will probably not succeed. So like almost every actor, when my opportunities came about, I did just that. I got a manager, I got a work visa, I went down to L.A. and what did I learn? I learned that I love being a Canadian actor. I like living in Canada. I like having the opportunities I do. I really enjoy the lifestyle that being a working Canadian actor affords me and I like the Canadian people I work with. I understand that in Canada we may not make the same amount of money as our counterparts might elsewhere or have exactly the same opportunities, but if that’s true, then that is okay. Why? Because at the end of the day, I personally love the art of acting and that does not change based on where I live. I am so proud that our talent pool here is extremely large and undeniably well trained. I love that actors, filmmakers, and story tellers in this country are beyond creative, passionate and humble. We do what we do because, like Gord, we truly love the art.
Now as a member of the Heartland family on the CBC, my gratitude for Canada, Canadian art, and thriving in my home country is greater than ever. This Canadian heart is full and it comes back to Gord.
As someone who never fully understood the impact of his artistic voice until now, I thank Gord for teaching me that the true meaning of success is what you believe it to be. For me, that is getting to do what I love in a country I love. Moving forward, I hope we can all be #morelikegord and find our own place in life, wherever that may be.