Opinion » Alta States

Tara O'Doherty — finding her way to laughter again



"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there one day."

- A.A. Milne, Winnie-The-Pooh

She's a high-energy gal. Always up. Always ready for the next adventure. And there's absolutely no pretence. Not a hint of self-importance to her persona... she knows exactly who she is. As for her engagement with life... hmm, how could I put this? Whether she's helping a client develop a hot, new radio ad for her employer Mountain FM or entertaining us onstage or on-film with her comic genius, Whistler's Tara O'Doherty is fearless. She embraces life like a mama bear embraces her cubs. Ferociously. But she does it with such an infectious sense of humour that you can't help but be swept along in her happy wake...

Alas, it wasn't always this way. Not so long ago, Tara was a prisoner of a living nightmare.

Imagine waking up in the morning and not recognizing the face peering back at you in the mirror. Imagine being forced to spend endless hours lying in a dark room — day after day, week after week — searching in vain for the person you once were. Wondering what happened. Where did the positive energy go? How did all the happiness disappear?

It seemed so inconsequential at the time. When Tara slipped on some ice and banged her head on her Whistler driveway in December of 2008, she had no idea how much that innocent fall would change her life. But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself again. Let's go back to the beginning.

"I grew up in the east end of Toronto — in the Beaches area," she starts. A now oh-so-gentrified part of the city, the late-1970s Beaches neighbourhood of Tara's memory was still a multi-cultural, multi-class kind of place. "It was such a great environment to grow up in — you know, very social: block parties and lemonade stands and water-balloon fights." Mom was an administrator and dad was a firefighter. Sports played a big part in family life. "I was a tomboy from the get-go," she says. "And very competitive." She laughs. "I was the middle child between two brothers. What else can you expect?"

Sports like t-ball and soccer and running — those were the things that really turned her on in life. "I could run fast, you know, really fast. And I knew that from a pretty young age. So I just ran and ran and ran." She became a sprinter — won silver at the Colgate Women's Games as a 12-year-old — and was quickly scooped up by the coaches of a junior development program at the University of Toronto.

"So off I'd go every day after school," she recounts. "Elite track and field training five days a week." Meanwhile she was also playing rep soccer, training and attending tournaments around Southern Ontario just about every weekend. It was a crazy schedule, and the workload soon began to exact a toll on her body.