One can use an Icebreaker to introduce oneself or to break through the ice of challenging times. I used this as my introductory speech at Toastmasters, and while I no longer attend, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about myself.
Growing up in Newfoundland, I often saw Icebreakers tied up at the wharf in St. John’s Harbour. They were different than the other boats, their bows curved rather than pointed like and with reinforced hulls. The purpose was to clear a path through the ice so that the other ships could come and go along the shipping routes.
My earliest memories are of living in a tiny community where it seemed everyone knew each other. My best friend lived across the lane, and we were back and forth to each other’s houses constantly.
When I was almost 7 years old, my family moved from Portugal Cove into town—St. John’s. It was an easy transition, like being an ice breaker moving through sish ice, that slushy ice that moves with the waves. There were some storms, but mostly calm sailing through the next 6 years of schooling and friendships.
We moved to Sault Ste. Marie Ontario the summer I turned 14. That was a big shift. I walked up to the first group of girls that I saw on the first day of high school and blurted out “Hi, I’m Michelle, and I’m very nervous.” In the next few weeks, I was like being an icebreaker going through pan ice, trying to navigate the safest route. I eventually found a group of friends with shared interests in drama, music, and weekend sleepovers at each other’s houses.
Three years later, we were on the move again, this time to Moncton. I was about to start grade 12, the last year of high school, and I was not a happy sailor. I kept bumping up against thick ice as I tried to make friends. Finally, a girl in my history class threw me a lifeline and invited me to the stage crew for Anne of Green Gables. I met a young man who has been by my side ever since. He has been my co-captain and navigator for 37 years. We have been married for 32 of those years and have 3 wonderful children.
Since high school graduation in 1982, life has taken me on many journeys. I have filled roles as, wife, mother, black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and Grandmaster Bikini Competitor in 3 bodybuilding shows. I was also, along with Ray, a business owner. Even though we worked hard, this was not the dream we had thought it would be, and we gave up the franchise in December 2017.
The following years have been challenging to say the least. Many times I felt like I was stuck in the ice, tethered to other boats that were pulling me in all directions. I lost my sense of who I am, and what I could be. I forgot that I am an icebreaker, not a tug boat.
One thing that has been a constant companion throughout my life is my love of words, both written and spoken. I have used that love to create my blog “This Whole Life” to share stories about my life experiences and to inspire people.
Now I am sailing through open water, with a few icebergs floating nearby. I am fully aware of the majesty of those imposing structures, and how much more is hidden below the waterline. Now I am choosing the best path for me.
You see, an ice breaker doesn’t just push the ice aside, it rises on top of it, and crushes it to clear a path, for itself, and any of the boats that follow behind. That’s how I want to crush my goals, and how I want to lead others to do the same.