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Re-Storying a Life

As we grow up, we often hear people talk about how the only way to be happy is to be successful and that success can only be measured in this very rigid way of making some certain (undefined) amount of money in a “steady” job. Creative types of young people are often urged not to pursue art as a career and to focus on something more “practical.”

One Emerald Village Resident, Charlotte, a self-proclaimed “Rugged Individualist,” shares her story about her past life of turning away from her art to move into a salaried office job. Charlotte explains she was never so miserable and her time there had serious health effects. But she emphasizes, “I can’t look back and be bitter, I want to be bold, look forward, stay creative and continue to re-story my life in a way that inspires me.”

After leaving the corporate world, she took care of her ill mother for a while, causing her to hit another wall. She had a very strict cult-like upbringing and when she chose to leave as a young person, she says it made her stronger. Caring for someone psychologically unstable and demeaning can have severe impact on the caretaker. Thankfully, Charlotte’s strength helped her realize she needed to move forward again, thinking to herself “I’m just not going to suffer anymore.”

It’s a good thing she was able to set those boundaries for herself (even though yes, that’s her mother). Often caretakers will overlook their own needs and their own health will be affected if they don’t set solid boundaries. Charlotte illustrates, “It’s easy to want to help other people, I saw so many people when I was at the Mission who were just gone. But I need to make sure I don’t fall through the cracks before helping anyone else.”

Now, at Emerald Village, she helps others in many ways because she has created a solid life for herself. Village Residents pay monthly rent and volunteer ten hours a month to help run the community. They each own a share in the housing co-op and for Charlotte, this means she can afford a stable home she is proud of. She’s applying for an officer role for the Emerald Village Board (soon the residents will be fully operating their own board). She says “even when drama happens here, I feel like I can contribute a lot, it’s like I’m part of a big puzzle.

To re-story a life takes a lot of courage and reflection and unrelenting bold action. Charlotte shares that “it’s most important to her to remain creative and inspired, being able to focus on myself has saved my life.”

(All artwork hand painted by Charlotte, for inquiries contact mycharkstudio2 [at]

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