I’m Nobody! Who are you?

In creativity, The Virgin Cure, the writing life by ami16 Comments

late 19th century photo by Jacob Riis - Girl holding a baby, NYC

In the year that’s passed since The Virgin Cure was first published in Canada, I’ve had several readers comment (either in person, via email, or in online reviews) that they’re “glad life for girls isn’t like it was in the 19th century.”

Yes, in many ways, life has changed for the better, for both our daughters and our sons.

Yet somehow children worldwide are still struggling…to be safe, to be fed (body, mind and soul), and to be heard.

Like many people I know, I’ve been trying to make sense out of certain events that have happened in the last few weeks. A sixteen-year-old boy showing up on a doorstep in rural Nova Scotia, shackled, naked, a victim of abuse. Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai being shot for expressing her belief  that all girls have the right to an education. Amanda Todd of Port Coquitlam, BC, also fifteen, taking her own life in response to the relentless personal attacks she’d suffered both physically and virtually.

I’ve been trying to find the right words to express how I feel, but everything I write feels flat, as if my thoughts will never hold enough power- to heal, to comfort, or to help countless other youth like Amanda.

My mother had a way of bringing young people to their best selves. Many of my friends throughout middle and high school were at ease when talking to her. She saw through our teen angst and got right to the heart of the matter. There was no fooling her; surrender, or be called out on your shit…(in, of course, the most artful, loving manner.)

She wasn’t trying to be another mother to my friends. She was simply connecting with them, human to human.

Sometimes there were tears.

But in the end there was always laughter.

Even strangers who crossed my mother’s path, at a park, in the grocery store, at the gas station, would get an extra pair of hands or some friendly words if she thought they needed it. She didn’t wait to be asked.

Human to human, simple as that.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us
Don’t tell—they’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public—like a frog—
To tell your name the livelong June
To an admiring bog!

– Emily Dickinson

I spent this past weekend at Blissdom Canada, a social media conference held in Toronto.  Honoured to be among the line up of fabulous speakers, I did my best to soak up as much of their wisdom, wit and advice as possible. One of the strongest messages I walked away with, was from Bonnie Stewart, who spoke about “how self works in a digital medium.” Towards the end of her talk, she said that one of the biggest dangers we face in the digital age is forgetting that there’s a human behind each computer. I heartily agree.

Human to human. We must not forget.

So today, the words I can find have somehow formed themselves into a pledge. Inspired by my mom and her no-nonsense way of making the world stop so she could listen, this is my Pledge for Digital Humanity.

I will listen.

I will be honest, (even if it scares me.)

I won’t take any voice for granted; yours or mine.

Pledge for Digital Humanity



Places and people  mentioned in this post: Blissdom Canada and the whip smart Bonnie Stewart.


  1. Candace Alper

    Now this is a pledge I can get behind! I love and try to live every word. Thank you for this, Ami. These are things that we teach our children every day (or as often as the need to remind them presents itself). Everyone matters.

  2. Tarasview

    I 100% agree with you- about the pledge AND about how fabulous Bonnie is 🙂

    Also- I loved meeting you and hearing you speak this weekend. Thank-you for coming and being a part of BlissDom Canada!

  3. shannon

    I loved listening to you this weekend. I walked away with goosebumps. Thank you for speaking from your heart. xo

  4. Adeline

    I used this Emily Dickinson poem this year with my grade 10s…it’s amazing how they can still connect, in this modern age, with timeless literature such as that. (And yours!) Love your writing! This blog reflects what many of us are thinking these days about young people: helpless, sadness, fear for their well-being. Sometimes it is easy to be overhwelmed by the sadness of the world – especially in the lives of youth. They are dealing with so much madness in this social-media driven society, but they also remind me of how important it is to be hopeful for the future. Teach them about the importance of love…for self and others…and respect for humanity. Thank you! I will be sharing this pledge with my students!

  5. Gretel Meyer Odell

    Thank you for creating something tangible that we can get behind! It was a pleasure to hear you speak and to meet you on Saturday night.

  6. Ami

    Thanks Candace! You’re absolutely right, everyone matters. One of the things my mom used to lament about was the waning of true community and the belief that we are all responsible for each other. It’s time to bring those things back!

  7. Ami

    Lovely to meet you too! Attending my first Blissdom was an amazing experience. So glad I went.

  8. Ami

    Thank you for being there and for listening! Such fabulous energy in that room the entire day.

  9. Ami

    Wow, I love that you’re sharing Emily Dickinson with your students. (Her words are timeless in my opinion.)
    I’m curious as to what your students might add to the Pledge for Digital Humanity. If time allows, would you ask them for me? I’d love to explore this idea, especially with today’s youth. Keep me in the loop, won’t you?

  10. Ami

    Wonderful to connect with you Gretel! I absolutely adored your costume creations. The world needs more opportunities for creative play.

  11. Katja Wulfers

    Listening to you speak of story, and of honouring all those who came before to form the story, was a highlight of the weekend at Blissdom.
    I will take up your pledge.

  12. zchamu

    I need to print this off and carry it with me. Always.

    Can’t wait to see you again.


  13. Shash

    I’ll take your pledge too. Kindness always wins.

    Thank you so much for coming, you had me hanging on each word as you spoke at BlissDom Canada. Your family story and your journey touched me deeply, I was in tears towards the end.

    It was such a privileged to meet you in person.

  14. Heather

    What a perfect pledge and a reflection of all that we learned at Blissdom. Thank you.

    It was an honour to meet you. See you on Twitter.

  15. Mel Gallant

    I just found your post via @mpricemitchell’s blog. What a great pledge. I don’t want to take any voice for granted either.

    p.s. I love Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I wish I could have met her. 🙂

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