My Odyssey: Chapter Three

[ Chapter One & Two ]

In Grade 9, Michele and I headed over to high school and took our instruments with us. I walked into the big red brick building by myself with all my school supplies in my backpack, an eager student with wet hair (a perm at that). It was like walking through a hallway of adults... the other kids were not kids anymore and I even saw one with a full beard! There were couples necking in the hallways, groups of guys rating the girls as they walked by and not a school supply in sight (ha, i had enough on my back to share with everyone). It was scary to young Leigh-Ann!! Lol... innocence & naivety was not embraced and I had no idea how to fit in. 

Michele and I continued with band and it was like a hangout room for all the kids who liked school & weren't wanting to be rated, kissed or challenged to reveal proof that they were mature yet. The band room was clear of the rating hallway and I avoided registering for any classes that required me to go down there. Michele and I walked everywhere together and people thought we were sisters :) We practically were-- we were besties with secret crushes on boys, big imaginations, fishing on the weekends, no attention for fashion, and books in our arms at all times. I had a pony tail everyday & no awareness of makeup and hardly any need for a bra.

I took health class in middle school really seriously (too literally). I learned that sex was for adults and you'll pretty much get pregnant every time you do it, teenagers are stinky, you go for icecream when you get your period, penises are the size of a banana and boys get a lot of 'popups' each day. I thought, how do they hide those things!? In junior high, I was worried... why wasn't I developing like the other girls. I'd lay in the bath tub pushing my chest together to resemble some form of a cleavage crack and pray for the day I had my own boobs. Since I'd fallen down my bunkbed ladder more than a few times as a girl (straddling the wrung!), I was seriously worried my parts were broken and I'd never get my period or have children. I asked my mom to take me to the doctor incase something was wrong and Dr.O said I'd be okay, I'm just a late blooomer (and as we can see now, I obviously prayed too hard for boobs and my DD's did eventualy bloom).

It was picture day in Grade 9 when I discovered I'd finally got my period and when I discovered it, I screamed in the highschool bathroom... I was so relieved and excited! As I posed for my school photo, I thought... everybody can tell I'm a w-o-m-a-n now! And Mom's gonna need to cancel everything tonight, she'll want to take me for ice cream! (Did you guys see that video in health class?) I was a paranoid girl and thought having your period was like a river coming out of you. I changed my tampon between every class break (lol) and worse, the first few times, I didn't realize the applicator was just a 'tool', not part of the solution... and I left it in! It was so hard to sit! I couldn't understand how women rode kayaks, danced and did exercise with these things... the commercials were lying!

Backing up a bit, I went to Summer Camp with Tanner (my cousin) in 1996 when I was 15. She always talked about how much fun it was... there was crafts, swimming, waterskiing, rock climbing, archery, no parents, new friends and it was in the wilderness! I think my parents paid for me or maybe I used birthday money... and I went to Bird River Bible Camp for a week. It was such a positive environment compared to my earlier experiences in school... the girls all got along and there were 'older kids' (counselors) everywhere helping us have a great time and having so much fun with each other! I really looked up to them :) It was seriously one of the best times in my life!

At night time, our cabin counselor asked us to sit on the floor in a circle and we'd talk about God. She told us about heaven and Jesus dying for our sins, and I was like "oh-- Jesus from the Christmas story?". I thought it was all make-believe till that point, like the Easter Bunny, Toothfairy or Mr.Clean. I listened so intently and when she said Jesus wanted a relationship/friendship with me... I was in! I only had one friend back home and thought, I want to go to heaven someday and this sounds pretty great! I thought about it for a few days but listened really intently in chapel and I asked a lot of questions! On the beach by myself, I decided to ask Jesus into my heart.

I went home pretty obsessed with my new found friend and thought since I didn't know about it till that week, I should tell everyone incase they missed it too. I was pretty zealous and my family was patient and accepting, but not interested. I asked for a bible for Christmas and tried reading it from the beginning like any other book. Yikes, that's a buzz kill for a teenager. It was hard to connect with the old testament but eventually, I flipped through and found more appropriate and relevant stuff for my age and level of learning. I went back to camp the next summer and grew even more passionate.

I was wholeheartly sincere about & committed to my relationship with Jesus and a life dedicated to him but with my inclination towards rules, checklists and structure... I was unaware how legalistic I was. I was trying my best but really needed more learning, church family and softness on how I was coming off to others. And I was doing it alone and could have really benefited from a mentor to help me learn balance and grow properly.

After two years attending camp and youth group, I applied to be a counselor at the same camp and was accepted. I helped lead a cabin each week and loved being like a big sister to the girls and teaching the crafts class. The environment was amazing and I made a lot of friends with common interests and in love with God. It was a bit of a bubble but it was also a really intense experience that taught me a lot and made me a more responsible person. I lived at camp as a counselor for 2 summers during high school and lived summer to summer-- I felt meant for that stuff!

Through high school, I was this growing Christian and it didn't meld well with my high school friendships (I must have been so abrasive and intense sometimes) and it was probably hard on Michele. My sister was one of the popular pretty girls in our high school and we were starting to become more friendly with each other at home. I envied her ability to fit in, have fun and be good at so many things :) Some people thought I was a lesbian because I had short hair, dressed like a tomboy and I was only friends with girls. It really hurt my feelings because I wanted to be like my sister but just didn't know how to be girly; I was just misunderstood.  I was really strict with myself that I didn't do anything 'bad'... with my combination of health class education and what I was learning at youth group and reading my bible, I was ANTI: boys, parties, kissing, drinking, drugs, lying, swearing, and obviously, sex. I was trying to be perfect and it was exhausting... I was never a teenager and should have just relaxed and searched for balance as a Christian (cause rules are not what it's about but that's what I seemed to connect to with). With nothing 'teenagery' left to do, I focused on band, volunteering, my school work and my relationship with God.

In Spring 1999 (near the end of high school), I had a surgery on my mouth to correct my jaw alignment... my jaw was surgically broken, reset and wired shut with braces for 6 weeks. Since band was a credited class and I couldn't play flute while my teeth were cinched (or after because my mouth shape changed so much), I was moved to the percussion section. BIG mistake! Lol... after 6 years of being in band, the jig was up... I can't keep a beat or read music timing (just notes; I'd always learned by listening and would memorize the songs). Percussion wasn't my strength since it was all beats and I was hilariously bad at even the triangle and embarrassed... but luckily it was near the end of grade 12 and I somehow faked it for the remainder and became band alumni with my class/friends :) 

A few details from having my jaw surgery:
- I had my first job that year at McDonalds and kept taking shifts with my teeth wired shut. I was 'on Window' (one of the girls taking your order) and when people would place their order, I had to talk through my teeth and try to project my voice. Amanda always jokes with her teeth clenched "Would you like fries with that?". Try it ;)
- It was like a built in plastic surgery. The surgeon reformed my lips (so that my top lip is full) and he shaved off some of my chin so I lost my long Jay Leno chin a bit.
- You carry nailclippers in your pocket everywhere incase you get sick, you have to cut the wires open so you don't choke.
- When you have your jaw wired shut, all you can eat for 6 weeks is milkshakes, purie'd soup, icecream & yogurt. It gets old quick and I was tired of those flavors, so I'd go to the fridge and eat condiments for a change of pace.
- The nerves in my face still tickle from that surgery and my nose is always itchy.
- When they unwired my teeth, the first real food I wanted to eat was McDonalds french fries. I took a bite and couldn't find the fry in my mouth and I bit my tounge. It's a really weird feeling to use your jaw after you haven't for a while, like the powersteerings gone out on a car.
- My mom and dad took really good care of me during recovery. Thanks Mom and Dad!

In Grade 12, I started going to local shows downtown(concerts) with Tanner and it felt so 'cool'! There was all these Christian teenagers at punk and hardcore shows and I started to realize I was going about it all wrong. They were relaxed, edgy and real. The scene was really awesome... there were cute boys, lots of interesting girls who were so sure of themselves and people embracing their creative talents, both musically and artistically. I felt like I could fit in here. I was shy so I took pictures of the bands and felt comfortable hiding behind the camera but loved when the band boys wanted to see my photos (an excuse to talk to them). Eventually I bought a video camera and started making funny short movies to entertain myself and my mom... there was music videos, dioramas, funny stories I'd retell, dares, start and stop animation, dialogues while driving and lots of mullet documentation ;) This was around the time I started my HardcoreChick204 site (ha!) and i was loving the creative outlets I was pursuing! I was totally discovering myself outside of school and it was really fun... I was so happy! I hardly paid attention to school in Grade 12 (other than drama and graphics class, my faves), and just made sure I had enough credits to graduate... I was having too much fun downtown!

With the combination of my faith and new friendships outside of our small town, Michele and I grew apart for a long time. I graduated high school with no intentions to go to college or university until I knew what I wanted to be... so I decided to take a year off from school, work and have some fun. That's the next part of my Odyssey.


I'll leave you with this little gem...
(that's me with short hair, I shaved my head once!)

And a few pictures...
ps. Day 2 of my Chair Series will be posted tonight :)


  1. I love reading your "life stories" they are so much fun and I find even more ways to relate every time! :) Thank you!

  2. i like the fact that your are sharing your faith some times its hard to do that. thanks this is what i need to read.

  3. I love this story. Man, we are similar---I was really into my faith, worked as a counselor at a Christian camp, etc. in high school, too. Even though I'm not religious anymore, those memories are so special to me.


  5. You're adorable in that red sweater (2nd from last photo)!!! Nice to hear that things improved so much for you since those first days (Chptr 1). Can't wait to read your next installment :D

  6. You're adorable in that red sweater (2nd from last photo)!!! Nice to hear that things improved so much for you since those first days (Chptr 1). Can't wait to read your next installment :D

  7. Much respect for sharing something that is so personal. I have a hard time blogging about my faith because there's such a stigma with it (I'm a pastor's daughter, I've seen it all). Love love you are wearing a ZAO shirt in this. Bring them back! <3

  8. ZAO!!! awesome! i miss the Christian hardcore/punk scene days.

  9. totally totally love these. Laughed out loud about the jaw wired shut & eating condiments for a change of cousin had to have that...yikes!! Can't wait to read about it and I have very similar stories...even down to the shy girl going to the local punk shows to take pictures. Wow. <3
    Sarah M

  10. I love your writing, so honest and insightful! I graduated in 2000 so I am having a lot of flash backs as I read your stories/see your photos. (the "styles") I also shaved my head at one point and had short hair all the time. (People also thought I was a lesbian but I was just shy with boys.)I love your blog.

  11. Thanks for reminding me that its okay to talk about what I believe in and I don't have to be ashamed of it(being a christian). I made the mistake right after I was saved my senior year of high school to work in christian retail for two years until they fired me for not getting kids sponsored. Reading this grounded me a little bit and reminded me that real faith can't be found in silly 'christian' bible covers, t-shirts, stickers tool kits etc.

    And the whole bit on becoming a woman, totally relatable. I was so paranoid I was afraid to move the first time I got my period. I look back and laugh now! xo Kristin

  12. I love your story! This is so beautiful and I'm so glad that you're sharing it, I had a similar childhood, not fitting in at all and being an out of step late bloomer. It's wild how that folds into who you are.

    Thank you so much! <3

  13. gah...
    thank you for posting this.
    you're right, it's not about rules.
    it's a relationship.
    I have found so much friendship, support, like-mindedness... in my endeavors as a crafter who knows Jesus.
    thanks LA :)

  14. Bravo for your courage to talk about your faith! Its a tough thing to talk about publicly.
    I had totally forgotten about ZAO!
    Thanks again being so open with us!

  15. I loved reading your story and seeing your photos. The video was hilarious.

  16. oh, thank you for being so candid and honest - damn, high school was awkward. for us all. at least we can laugh about it now :)

  17. wishing there was a "like" button on blogger right about now. seriously, I really appreciate your courage to share about your faith.

  18. lovely post :) i like the video! it's cute.

  19. Thanks so much LA. I was similar at high school - insanely 'religious' and legalistic. I'm sure that I was far too abrasive and black and white. I think that it might just be a reaction to be 'different' since being a Christian is supposed to be living a life differently to non-Christians. But when you're a teenager things get messed up pretty bad pretty quickly.

  20. I Love this so much. And you! I love your story-telling and ability to capture these moments. Thanks for sharing this! xoxo

  21. ok well another post that I was laughing so hard almost peeing my pants, and then at the end had a few tears in my eyes. That was one of the hardest times in my life realizing that slowly our friendship was drifting apart,we were 2 different people going 2 seperate ways in our life, i am happy that slowly but surely we are finding our way back to eachother!!!
    thanks 4 a great post and a decent pic of us!!!
    xoxox Michele

  22. wow, you went through jaw surgery so early! i just had mine this past year. six weeks completely wired shut WITH a splint... SUCKED :(

  23. funny, my orthodontist told me he'd have to break my jaw to align my teeth ...
    I chose to have a big overbite instead :)

  24. This is amazing. I just got back from counseling at a Christian youth camp a few days ago and it's so funny to read your story now I know exactly how you feel. Thanks for being real and honest.

    -Andrea Marie

  25. This is really great. The Christian music scene opened my eyes all over again. I realized that being a Christian can help you fit in and being yourself is highly acceptable there.

    I found my boyfriend through it. In a semi-roundabout way.

    I appreciate that you're bringing this to light for everyone.

  26. I wish I could tell you out loud how much I enjoyed reading this.

    It's wonderful to hear how a young Christian needs to realize on their own that it's not about rules, it's about Christ. That's it. You and Him.

    I'm proud of you for sharing your story... it made my day!

  27. yeah!!!! band geeks unite!!!!

  28. You're so insanely honest, Leigh-Ann. I love that about you! The tampon story...I died of laughter! I think it's really awesome that even though there were people who said stuff about you, you only wanted to be yourself. That's really tough for a teenager to do. The video is a classic! Can't wait for the next chapter!

  29. i have been saving part 3 of your story, until i had a time i could really enjoy it, and it has been a wonderful read so far. i can relate to so much of your story! thank you for sharing, and i look forward to part four!

  30. Loved reading your story. Your video was funny, and I loved your pictures.

  31. I absolutely love reading about your odyssey. I was reading and thinking... "This should totally be a book."

    I love the way you write!

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. Can't wait for the next installment!

  32. Yessss. I loved the Christian punk scene. Hahha, the boys ARE cute, huh? This was fun, Lee-ann! I loved it, and I had no idea we were sisters in Christ. THAT is always fun to learn! <3

    And I loveee your chair series! :)

  33. Oh man, the lumberjack outfit and the peace sign in front of the Alanis Morissette poster!!

    I, too, thought (thanks for high school health class plus church) that sex always leads to pregnancy and AIDS and that anything having to do with it must therefore be bad. We could have been awkward Christian lumberjack friends. :)


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