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man in historical clothing smoking a pipe

Pre-event PR photoshoot. Photo by J. D. Kay

The recent BBC video making the rounds on social media got me thinking about how we live our lives, and what commitments we make to being our true selves, how we follow our bliss, if you will. It takes a lot of courage, willpower, and hard work to achieve one’s deepest inner dreams and although I have taken some steps towards mine, I have not let go all the way (as one does not when one is putting a child through college). 

I think about this desire to be true to one’s own internal vision, and I think about my friend Justin, who found a place and fell in love with what he saw, past and future. It’s hard work to run a farm and a business, but Justin does it beautifully, with grace and integrity. What he achieves makes me ache with want, not for the house, or the frozen cat’s water dish, or the work, but for the courage. 

Working with Justin pushed me into places where I found, if not fear, at least discomfort. As we said, It isn’t history till it hurts. The first What Cheer Day we ran, I remember standing behind the door on the second floor landing of the servants’ quarters, knowing it was show time. I looked at Justin and said, “What the hell have we done?” terrified to go out and “be” John Brown’s housekeeper. But, out we went, and it was amazing. That work inspired me to push myself harder, to try the things that scared me and made me uncomfortable. That’s where the meat is, and the truth: where things hurt.

woman and man in historical clothing looking at a book

The housekeeper was caught reading naughty novels. Photo by J. D. Kay.

As with all things I tackle, I could push myself harder, not to sew better or more authentically (that’s the easy part, really) but to live the way I want to, authentically. To decide what matters and what doesn’t, and stick to it. That’s the real lesson of these men, and why they’re inspiring. I just happen to prefer the one with mud.