The Privilege of Expression

Maya Bairey
3 min readMay 7, 2024

In March 2020, the pandemic lockdown began. “Just stay indoors for a few weeks,” we were told. The lucky ones baked sourdough and completed puzzles while essential workers commuted through eerily-deserted streets. Millions died, and millions more looked at each other over the dinner table, thinking of the hours and hours we were privileged to have but unprepared to fill.

The day the news told us to stay home, I had on my desk a box of invitations for my 50th birthday blowout, scheduled for two months later. Canceling the party was a minor sacrifice compared to what was happening to others. I felt a little too privileged; I had more time with my sweet husband, my work-from-home job, and endless home projects to keep me busy. Life inside felt chillingly normal compared to the nightly news. That discomfort nudged me. I thought about deserving what we have, about legacy, about the need to create something meaningful in whatever time we each have.

Using Your Time to Do What Matters

I had little experience with being publicly authentic and exposing my vulnerabilities, but it started to feel like the answer. I wanted to try. Writing comes naturally to me, and after posting some well-received short stories, I decided to write a whole novel. But what story did I have in me? Well, what if my main character was a woman struggling to express herself through art? I was living that struggle, after all! She and I could learn together. And, how does one learn? You find a teacher — an expressive artist who challenges you to grow and feel and create. Well. There was my second main character. And what if it was a man? Now we’ve got a romance.

I thought it would take six months. It took three years, and I assure you I worked on it almost every one of those 1,095 days.

This planet is different now, three years after I started. Change will always come for the world, and it came for me as I wrote. I did learn, alongside Celia, how to express myself and why it’s so vital. Putting my heart into words changed me. My first 50 years passed in a blur of doing for others, but my next 50 — I am an optimist, after all — will include embracing and expressing my truth. I’m an author now.

I’m Finally Getting That Party, Though

On May 11, I’m launching Painting Celia. The launch party will be more sophisticated than my 50th was intended to be, but if you’re near Portland, Oregon I invite you to come by! If you can’t make that, the book is available for pre order. Buying one now for 99¢ on Amazon gives it a big boost, bumping it up the page so more potential readers can find it.

Please join me, my friends and family and community, in my celebration of art, life, and new beginnings.

First published on bairey.com

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Maya Bairey

Maya Bairey pens tales of relatable, stuck characters who find solutions within, aided by real relationships. Discover her book, Painting Celia, at bairey.com.