Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Go Back, then Return

It's 2003 and I'm going to walk across a stage at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University in a few months. I'm scared shitless. My closest friend walks with me for hours, in the dark and lets me talk. I make up stories about what life would be, if I could go back in time 4 years and start college all over again:

I would be a Studio Art major. A real possibility
I would be anorexic. Bulimic is more likely. Because I forget to eat on a regular schedule. It's something I still struggle with. Binge eat/work/sleep/drink/exercise, they are all part of my life, unfortunately. I'm still trying to grow up.
I'd be a slut. A far fetched possibility.
I would have been broke all the time, spending money on art supplies and beer. True. I think I dodged some bigger bullets like pot and prescription pain killers and who knows what by being an uptight Lyman Briggs student.
I would be in a sorority. Not likely. I would still probably move into a co-op house, probably my sophomore year instead of my senior year.

It helped. I don't know why, and I never really expected it to mean anything. I proceeded to go through the graduation ceremony, work and live at home that summer, then finished my classwork that fall with an internship in Montana. 

From there I substitute taught, worked for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, substitute taught some more, took a job zoo keeping in Oregon, went through a bit of purgatory with that, took a job that had me working in Colorado, and eventually was back in Oregon, working and taking studio art classes at the local community college.

2009 had me living in a one room cabin working at a construction camp.  I was painting and wandering and had good friends near me, my heart was resting. It had been battered and confused in the past 6 years. I didn't know I was resting at the time, but looking back, I'm thankful for the friends who were supportive through that phase.

Here's the part where I return to now.

I had a bit of clarity today.  I'm never going to be an 18 year old studio art major. In 1999 I would have been overwhelmed and quit.  Or in 2003 I would have become a pretentious bitch who thought she knew it all and would have not tried for much beyond monetary success. I think I needed to travel an unorthodox path to reach this point, where I'm finally finding clarity, where I'm starting to realize what I want to devote my life to.  And right now, this is what I think:

 I'm not the only one who doesn't fit the mold.  There are others who can learn from my experience.  I don't need to focus on sharing what I did and learned.  I should and can focus on encouraging others to cut their own path.  I can facilitate and encourage others to make their own way. 
This doesn't mean the fuse to my rocket was a dud, and I'm done with everything but making others dreams come true.  Today I am an artist.  I know how to do things.  I do things my own way because in many cases I don't know any other way.  I can show people how I do things. Then turn them loose to do their own thing.  Whatever they want to do and however they want to do it.

There are a variety of ways I can do this. The first is I'm going to keep creating what I feel compelled to.  I'm going to take it the extra step, and document as many projects from start to completion as possible, a completely unnecessary and narcissistic step, with the hope someone is inspired to try it themselves. I'm going to post this on my Tumblr page.
The second way I'm thinking about is with the Boys & Girls Club.  This week, I'm going to see what kind of connection & role I can have there.
Third is by spotlighting other artists, dead and alive, who create work I admire.  Once again on my Tumblr page.
I have an inkling what the fourth step should be, but I'm not there in my head yet, and I'm making more of a commitment just by writing this than I'm comfortable with.

The funny thing is, when I left Oregon, I needed to tell people I was leaving for a reason. So I told them I had a long term goal of opening my own studio where people, young people specifically, could have an opportunity to be artists, without taking the usual path.  People for who the typical or privileged opportunities were not afforded them. People like me.  It's funny, because I'm taking steps towards this goal 5 years sooner than I thought I would be.

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