I wrote my “life” or autobiography in three parts: The beginning, middle, and end to show my characters change and development over times. I put about five to six years between each part, with my character having been about twenty years old at the beginning of their journaling/writing. So without further to do, here is my “good life”.
Part One: The Beginning
For most of my life I was told where I was to be, when, and how to look when I got there. I’ve been told the colours that make my fair skin glow like fresh snow and what cut of dress brings out my soft feminine curves. Suitor after suitor have come knocking on my family’s small London town home asking for my hand in marriage yet every time I smile sweetly, graciously decline and retreat back into the arms of my mother. She doesn’t understand why I say no, all she sees are the future investments and opportunities with the money that my future husband could bring to me; I have never really cared about money.
There is talk of change all around me. A new nation has sprouted from the failures of my country’s empire. There is talk of freedom, opportunity, and adventure. I have decided to go. Draw one last spring of my youth’s ignorance and board the boat to take me away. I feel no sadness or loss leaving my family behind, they wish me the best and realize that city life was never for me. However, there is one small bump I must overcome. Throughout my life there is a pressing matter that most turn a blind eye to, our god says that man came first so men must obviously come first in our society I have decided that it’s my turn to come first. Leaving behind feather boas and powder faces I no longer carry my name as Mary yet take this path as a cloned version of generic; you, can now call me John.
It was the spring of 1890 when I left home and pursued my life as John. I met young men on the boat who were leaving for the heck of it, who were determined to be the next John A MacDonald and replace him, businessmen jumping on the idea of a new economy, and families leaving to start a new and better life for their children. They created small talk with me, and this was where I created my new identity. My name was John Mathers and I grew up just outside of London. I am an only child, and my parents died when I was young. My sole aunt raised me until her passing a year ago and there was nothing left for me in London. I’m not entirely sure where I will go once we get to Canada, however I’ve been told that Toronto is a bustling city and that the government is offering anyone a free train ticket out west and free land if you get there. I plan to go as far west as I can, stopping in settlements and towns when needed and eventually decide where I will settle.
I’ve often been asked why I decided to move. Why now? Why by yourself? Why leave your family? Why? And my only answer seems to be “Why not?” I never wanted to live my life as a wife or a mother; the thought of being confined to one name or one place scared me, and perhaps the thought of having to grow up, old, and over in London scared me. Here, I have no rules or an ideal life i should be living. Here, I am able to make my own decisions.
Part Two: Middle
I’ve been living in Canada for almost five years, and I never knew how much things could change until now. Once I made it out west, I was able to get an apprenticeship with a blacksmith. It took quite a lot of convincing and he wasn’t too keen on teaching me however his much older father pressured him into it. I fear that once the father dies he’ll let me go. I’ve created a pretty good life for myself so far and I’m not sure what I would do if my income stopped. With my salary however, even with how little it is, I’ve been able to claim a small piece of land and am saving up to build a house there. It’s near a river and backs onto a forest. When I’m not working, I’m exploring my property. Envisioning dream house after dream house, I’ve marked where the kitchen will be so when I wash my dishes I can look out and see the sky. Positioning my front porch westward so I can sit and watch the sunset, I’ve decided that that I’m going to have gardens. Plural, as in two in the front only for flowers and three in the back where I’ll grow and harvest fruits and vegetables. I’ve talked to local farmers to learn the basics of crop growing and I’ll be able to can my own hard work. Eventually I dream of livestock. Being out west has taught me two things; one: Unless you are oozing rich the way of travel is by horse and buggy and two: that buggies can only get you so far on this terrain. Inevitably, I learned to ride horses, well; and have fallen in love with the animal. Maybe one day I’ll have my own and be able to go off for days and explore however right now I travel by my own two feet and the blacksmith’s horse if he’s in a good mood.
As I’ve continued my life as John, I’m starting to lose parts of Mary. I don’t remember what I looked like with long hair nor do I remember the feeling of wearing a long dress and have the wind pick up underneath it. I feel as if I am two people. Mary, and John; yet as I grow older Mary is slowly fading away and I’m not sure if I’m okay with that. However, I’m not sure how to bring her back. I dont know what the repercussions would be if suddenly john disappeared and Mary became public. I don’t think the public would be too accepting. It is only once I build my home will I then be able to bring Mary to Canada. For now, she’s still in London.
As well, I even made a friend. Her name is Elizabeth and we actually met on the train coming here. She had her nose in a book and when I saw other men harassing her for it, I couldn’t watch and let it happen. From there, we were instant friends. She doesn’t believe in marriage, so her parents but her on a boat from Britain and shipped her here to “find love and acceptance through a man” as she puts it. I’ve always admired her rebelliousness, determination, and excitement for life. If it weren’t for her, I’m not sure how I would be doing right now. Most of the people I’ve met are quite friendly and willing to strike up a conversation with me, yet are quick to judge and draw conclusions. My worst fear is them finding out the truth about me.
Part Three: The End
From the last time I wrote to you, many aspects of my life have changed for better and for worse. The blacksmiths’ father passed away three years ago, and the blacksmith disappeared shortly after his death leaving everything he had to me. I am greatly indebted to these kind men who helped put a roof over my head. Speaking of roofs, I started building my home, and have almost completed it. All that’s left are the finishing touches like little things such as bookshelves and window boxes. It’s one level, wide, and has a big front porch. I stuck to my plans and have the five gardens. I’m currently growing some native berries the locals call “blueberries” Once they are ripe, I’ll keep some for myself and sell the rest at the market. Although my home is fairly isolated and a little ways out of town, I have seen a fluctuation of newcomers coming in with their heavy bags and suitcases. They tell me that the new train station is too far a ways from the town, or that they should have a taxi service from the train station to the city. More factories are popping up here too. There’s about three new lumberyards, a food manufacturing plant and rumors of a soon to be shipbuilding plant, just like the one on the east coast.
In spite of her hatred for romance, Elizabeth finally went against her morals, and got married. She met a man named Michael and they quickly fell in love. For a while she tried to deny it, however he never lost faith. Together, they moved to a bigger city where there would be more job opportunities and a better chance at life for them. We try to keep in touch through letters, yet she tells me that Michael doesn’t always like her talking to other men, or leaving the house. I only wish that she’d stayed. Losing someone you’re close to is hard.
When I came to Canada, I had set aspirations down like railroad tracks. I let them guide me to wherever it may be however occasional spikes would set me off track. I don’t believe that they created negative experiences in my life, only stopped and made me think of the decisions I would be making. I don’t hold regrets. What I have done here is create a life for myself that I believe is worth living. I am happy, sometimes lonely; but you must learn how to keep yourself company in times of solitude. I do miss my family dearly, I sent them one letter when I arrived here but I’m not sure if it ever made it back home; I’m hoping it did.
Mary and John are now equal counterparts in my life. I have not fully expressed myself to the public, and I don’t think I ever will. We’re just not at the point in time right now. However, I’ve let my hair grow longer, a little bit past my shoulders. I can put it in a braid and that’s how I usually wear it now. Before Elizabeth left, as her parting gift, she gave me a few of her old dresses. Turns out we were basically the same size. She’s the only person I ever told about Mary, and she promised me that she would die with that secret. I live as Mary at home, and John in the public. I know that eventually someone will find out, or I’ll make mistake, however I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I trust in the kindness and acceptance of others, since many have been so during the time I’ve been here. Truly, the battle that I’ve had with myself has come to peace. My life is exactly how I want it to be, and as time progresses I am excited to see what is to come next. Small town life was exactly what I was looking for. It can be difficult leading two lives, and for a while I’ve struggled with it. I’m being myself when I’m Mary or john, but I must always watch what I say when John. As if I’m walking on a tightrope. I can’t lean too far one way or another in case I give myself away. At home, as Mary or John I can scream as loud as I want, dance like a madman, wear whatever I desire and say whatever comes to mind. Customers have told me that I’m soft-spoken, gentle, and almost shy and it’s hard to hold myself back. Show them my true self. Now I don’t hole myself up at home, I go out often to town dances or get together, but only as john. Men tell me that many women have “taken a fancy” for me but I never do go and pursue the young lady. I have never felt love in that sort of way.
Although I am happy where I am right now. I dream of more. Eventually, I will sell my property and travel around Canada. Making money by doing odd jobs, and choosing whom I may be when I arrive at any town. I want to see what it’s like living in Canada as a woman, since I’ve played dress up as a man for so long. I’m going to go from one end of Canada to the other. West to east, meeting new people along the way. I’ll tell stories of my actual childhood in London, the freedom of moving here, the blacksmith and his father, building my temporary home, and the cherished friendship I had with Elizabeth.
Thank you, for following me these past years. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue writing, since I’ll be busy living my life more. This space has given me comfort when I needed it, and let my dreams bloom into reality. If I were to take one thing out of these years, it is that life doesn’t give us purpose, we give life purpose.