Cate was one of my coworkers at Substance, the women’s clothing boutique I wrote about yesterday, where I had my first taste of professional fulfillment. Even among the group of smart, creative, kind women that I was lucky enough to work with, Cate stood out to me as someone to admire. I was 22 and living in a city for the first time, and though Cate was only 24, she had a certain confidence that I associate with a much older soul.
I was still at a stage in life when I could sometimes get swept up in the appeal of a certain kind of edgy, apathetic type. I’ve always been someone who wears my heart on my sleeve, so it's a sort of self-shaming admiration of people who have cultivated an aura of mystery around themselves. But Cate showed me that you could be enthusiastic about your interests and confidently own your quirks. She unabashedly loved the theatre, fairy tales, the works of Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak, and could vividly describe scenes from her childhood spent in Maine and Tennessee with the flair of a natural storyteller.
What I especially admired was seeing how her confidence carried her through the often frustrating challenge of seeing a creative idea through to completion. I’ve written before about how I slacked as a teenager, and unfortunately I brought some of that to my work at Substance. I had taken charge of a project to transform old tee shirts into reusable totes, but found myself procrastinating on it for weeks because I was so afraid of screwing it up with my nonexistent sewing skills. But Cate? She boldly dove into her creative projects and didn’t quit, even in the face of unexpected challenges. She once dragged a huge fallen branch through the Short North, and then camped out in the loft space of the boutique, spending hours of each shift wrapping every little branch and twig with yarn. It took way more time, yarn, and patience than she had expected, but she did it anyway, and (here’s my favorite part) was able to stand back and admire our beautiful new window display with pride in a job well done.
It’s been years since I saw Cate, and I don’t know if our paths will ever cross again. But these days, she’s still inspiring me to keep on keeping on, using her talents as a writer to organize other creatives and fight the Trump administration. Now there’s a daunting task if I’ve ever seen one… but she is consistently, enthusiastically, and creatively taking action, and inspiring others to join the fight — including yours truly.