Sunday, April 03, 2016
A Good Life...
A few year ago, almost a decade ago now, I was riding the train home. I had just pulled a double shift at the restaurant that I worked at. I was tired and my feet were sore and I smelled like food. As I rode the train, speeding through the darkened tunnels, heading home to my far flung apartment in Brooklyn, suddenly the view opened up as we crossed the bridge. I watched the lights in Manhattan, like twinkling stars. I traced the buildings of the skyline I knew by heart. I found the statue of liberty and the spot where the Trade Towers used to stand. I cast my eyes towards a city of sleeping strangers and people like me, just getting off work or going in for the nightshift. And then it went dark again as we plunged back into the earth, the drumming of forward progress in my ears and the silent breaking of my heart in my chest.
While I had liked my work in the restaurant and working with so many great people, it wasn't what I had come to New York to do. I had come to New York to make artwork. And while I sat on the train in a crumple, I realized that I hadn't made anything new in months. In the span of a lifetime, that's not altogether that long. But I am my most happiest when engaged with the act of creating and I hadn't made anything in a long time. What was I doing with my life?
As the conductor signaled my stop, I gathered my belongings and headed towards the door. I precariously balanced, trying not to fall as the train slowed and then came to a stop. The doors opened. I got out and the doors closed behind me and the train kept going... without me. While I made me way to my apartment, I realized something. At some point, what some would consider a promising career in the New York art world took a turn and without me really noticing, it had left me behind. It dawned on me that I'd never be a famous artist and it was unlikely that my work would ever hang in the Whitney or be on the walls of MoMA. I was experiencing what I like to call a "knowing". It's the profound sense of understanding something completely in a moment. I've had these experiences only a handful of times in the past and each time, whether I wanted it or not, the knowing came to pass. And I was a little sad.
I didn't have too much time to be sad though. I had to prepare for a trip to visit my family and then when I got back, I'd start my promotion at the restaurant...
Needless to say, things changed.
When I was away, I realized that I had to change the direction I was going. While I had been sad at first about letting go of this imaginary future, there was something empowering. Knowing that a certain path was closed to me, allowed me to make decisions that would impact the rest of my life. William and I discussed the logistics of me leaving my job and we figured that with what he was making at his job, my freelance jobs, and working with my family, we could afford to do it. It wouldn't be easy, but he could sense that I become less and less fulfilled and needed this change. I contacted my employers, and while they didn't want me to leave, they also understood my need to embrace my creativity and pursue my passion.
Looking back at these moments in my life, I realize that it was a very powerful time. Magic was afoot. All I had to do was open my eyes and reach my hands out and grasp the invisible reins. Over the years, I've been able to explore my path in the arts and while many things changed – dramatically at times – what didn't change was that I was my most happiest when I was creating. Recognizing this, empowered me to encourage others to create. While I may not be a famous artist, this does not mean that I couldn't be an artist. It's my goal in life to create things that connect to people and make them feel. Creation is magic. It is a spark and a light and a source of power. It is a gift and something that can used to influence the world.
I've made it my life's work to not only create things myself, but encourage others to create as well. I believe in education and inspiring others to find their own creativity, their own magic. We made our lives about the promotion of the arts. In the business, we've used this mission statement to create opportunities for artists to share their work and opportunities for people to see and experience something different, that they might not otherwise have had the chance to engage in. I find joy in promoting and encouraging artists and work tirelessly to lift others up. Often times, there's no direct gain for me in that endeavor, but it's not so much about doing what's good for me, but about raising the tide and lifting everyone up. I see myself as the gardener, who plants seeds and watches things grow and bloom. I am an advocate for other artists and their ability to create and share their creativity. And... yes... when it is necessary, I am a defender of artists and their voices. I do not go out of my way to harm or hurt others, but I will protect those who are in my tribe of free-thinkers, makers, and doers. I will protect those who also aim to inspire and encourage and bring true beauty to this world.
And... I have to say... it has been a good life.