By: Dr. Susan Aglukark, O.C.
In 1991, I got a phone call from CBC Northern Services and Les McLaughlin, he described an annual project with Northern Artists and asked me would I be interested in submitting a demo for consideration for the upcoming recording? I had no clue what he meant by demo so I asked him and after he explained it to me I immediately accepted the invitation to submit. I of course did not have songs to submit but I did have some poems I had written in high school, most were written in Inuktitut and since I could play three cords on a guitar I developed very simple melodies for the poems and submitted 7 inuktitut “songs” and 1 english “song” to Les and all 8 were selected for the project, this was my first recording experience.
At the time of this recording I had been living in Ottawa about 4 months and was still very much a small town Nunavut minded person which is to say that I had very little “worldly” experience and no tools with which to draw from and had yet to settle into the city life but a couple of things were happening simultaneously, I was beginning to feel what might be considered the stirrings of a deep want or yearning, ie. I wanted to fly airplanes and so I had begun ground schooling for a pilots license and at around the same time CBC calls with this offer to be a part of this project suddenly I find myself with two very real and very attainable opportunities both of which meant giving in to a yearning but it also meant I had to fast track my unease with the city life, (yes, Ottawa was a big city at the time) but rather than “fast track” this hurdle, what ended up happening was that I had to set it aside and focus on this yearning and maybe this is all part of the process of engaging a dream but from that time on and for many years to follow, I felt like I was hanging on but…what was I hanging on to when I hadn’t yet in my own mind latched onto anything, was this yearning the thing I had to latch on to? Where would it take me?
What I mean is this, in order to cope with how fast things were moving forward with that CBC project and than with the recording of the first album The Arctic Rose, I had to set aside these feelings of inadequacy, I had to choose to be enough in that moment so that I could cope with all that was going on around me. The people I worked with were wonderful people but like most, they had no idea that in my mind and heart was this constant fear that I was a fraud, that I wasn’t really the singer/songwriter they seem to think I was, that everyone around me was so much better and that I did not belong! It is this constant underlying perpetuating sense of ilira that was prevalent in the early part of my career that held me back from truly engaging but also forcing me to really look at what was at risk.
I was working for the ITK (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) as Executive Assistant during the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and we travelled quite extensively across Canada at the same time as when the Arctic Rose Album had come out and so I found myself living between two careers and doing my night schooling to get my pilots license and so I couldn’t decide which one to nurture. I did not feel like I had what it took to be a singer/songwriter, I knew I had a lot of learning to do to become a better singer, I was really enjoying my job as executive assistant and could see myself taking necessary training to keep advancing that career and I had the dream of flying air planes but my decision to follow through on the Arctic Rose project set me on my personal recovery journey and my heart was waking up and at the end of the day, isn’t this the true calling we all wait for!?!
Only, I did not know about awakenings, I did not have any words or stories passed down to me that I could use and apply into that part of my “transition”, there was no knowledge bridge, no words of wisdom to guide me through this “heart awakening” I had only the fear and how the heart responded to it. Often I would wake up on the weekend mornings and start my day by placing the fear in a compartment in the back of my brain, I would then hop in a cab or take a bus to where ever I had to go to meet up with that days co-writer and than go back home and get ready for the weeks regular work which was a relief because at least there I had a job description, daily expectations, people with specific tangible needs, writing an album with no image for what it’s future held, it was like standing on a piece of glass but beneath it was an abyss, black and cold, no idea what was there and how deep it went.
But underneath it all was this awakening and a choice, to heal or to remain afraid of my future. My decision to pursue the singing career wasn’t so much a choice to pursue the singing career as much as to see how much my heart and spirit could heal? What potential lay inside of me and can I really set aside the fear enough to regain some control of my life? Along with this choice was the knowledge that I would have to write my own bridging story, develop my own tools, build my own knowledge bridge and to begin to trust the awakening heart.
Like confronting my fears, I could not make this decision lightly, I made it in small steps, my first choice was to write the personal stories in the Arctic Rose songs, this the first step, from that point on was one decision at a time. One can not heal over night, how do we even know when we are done healing? I think we just have to make small choices, each one will determine the next choice until we reach a point where that road ends and than it’s time to start a new road and we are truly capable of reaching these places in our lives.
Recap: Sometimes part of our healing journey means writing our stories, developing our own tools with which we build our “knowledge bridge” on which we cross over to the awakening heart.