Monday, March 01, 2010

Great (Un)expectations...

At various points in my life, I knew exactly who I was and where I wanted to be. I always had a plan and a map of how to get to my goal. But now I look back and see a pile of those old dreams; they lay along my path like the shed skins of different creatures.

Once I wanted to be a marine biologist, but almost nearly drowning quenched that rather quickly.

There was a time when I wanted to be an activist, fighting the good fight and rebelling against The Man, but sense got knocked into my head with a thwack from a picket sign in the back of the head and nearly getting arrested for "disturbing the peace".

I once sat on the board of a 501(c)(3) organization, with aims to be a leader in the spiritual community. I desperately wanted to unify a community and heal the hurts through faith. What I discovered was that I didn't have a stomach for politics or power play. After the death threats, constant finger-pointing and discovering what it was like to be made an escape goat, my overt religiosity was cured.

Instead of being the subject of news, I wanted to report it. I worked for different newspapers, mostly doing grunt work, but ever working towards a byline. When I finally got one, my words were edited and twisted beyond recognition. So when "Peaceful Protestors Aim to Save Diverse Neighborhood" turned into "Liberals and Illegal Immigrants Cause Traffic Jams" and "Teens Rally in the Thousands Against Election Fraud" transformed into "Underwhelming Response from Least Participating Demographic", I knew it was time to sign off.

I moved to New York and got starshine and glitter in my eyes. I thought that becoming a Fashionista Nightlife Celebrity was where it was at. If I was the only one who wore a tie to a party one week and saw that everyone was wearing a tie the next week, I thought that my work was done. I was somehow influential. But when I was dividing my time between visiting friends in rehab and going to memorial services for people on the scene who died from overdoses or from drowning their sorrows, I knew the party was over.

Having come from Florida with academic aspirations, I was not readily equipped to rise to infamy in the Nightlife. I knew that I'd have to come out of my shell and drop my stoicism. I got various jobs to better examine the scene and plot my way to the top and become more nightlife worthy. I was a bartender; I was a party promoter; I was a go-go dancer. In the latter incarnation, I became aware for the first time of the power of expression through movement and the body. I thought that I wanted to become a REAL professional dancer. I didn't have a lot of extra money. So, I traded my skills as an artist, painting gaudy murals and making costumes for drag queens (many of who were classically trained dancers) in exchange for lessons. I went on my first audition, seeing others who had been training since before puberty expertly picking up steps and moves without flinching, and knew that I was out of my league. With muffled excuses about forgetting an imaginary bag, I left without even trying.

To hang my first guerilla art show, I had a budget of $100. Most of it went towards printing postcards and buying booze. The New Rags and General Miggs were the spotlighted local bands and the artwork of over a dozen artists was represented. Throughout the evening, hundreds of people passed through (including writers for several magazines like The Fader and Vice). Half of the artwork was sold and several of the represented artists went on to get shows with established galleries. I went on to help curate and organize more shows. The game plan was to eventually have my own gallery. But after one of the artists I represented in that first show suddenly passed away and the realization that I wasn't making work anymore dawned on me, the dream of having my own gallery became less important. The urgency to make my own work again took me over.

I am sitting five hundred miles away from a home that I never thought I'd have. Until a few years ago, "Bolivar" did not exist in my vocabulary. Nor did my skills include driving. I thought that I'd be a perpetual Brooklynite, ever riding the subways and buses of The City.

I've come to expect the unexpected, to relinquish what I thought I'd be. This doesn't mean that I've abandoned hope or all my aspirations, it just means that I've come to terms with the mutability of my path. Right now is a great time of change and uncertainty. I'm piecing things together and working on forging a new tomorrow, one day at a time. It hasn't been easy and it seems like I've been getting knocked down a lot. I guess it's easy to feel like that when the ground is shifting beneath you. I do have faith though that things will work out, no matter how much changes –because I carry with me all those many different guises, all those memories AND I have the support of my family, friends and loved ones I've collected along the way.


Rose said...

To live life is an adventure and yours certainly sounds like one to me. Your words are inspiring.

Gaea said...

What fantastic life lessons you've had. I wish I could say I've been out there and tried so many things, following where my interests wanted. You will have many books to write... someday.

Anonymous said...

You are the best at just being Andrew. You will be successful at whatever you attempt because you've got the goods. You are such a rare jewel of heart and talent. Whatever you do will just be icing on the cake! (That sounded a bit corny like it should be in the back of a dusty high school annual, but I meant it sincerely!) Thanks for opening and sharing your writing and art here in your journal and taking us along on the journey with you!

TesoriTrovati said...

I have always come to "expect the unexpected" when I come to visit here, Andrew. And you never disappoint. So many hats you have worn, or costumes you have tried on. You seem to be on a path to the you you were meant to be. And that gives me hope that I might one day be the me that I am meant to be.
Thank you for sharing and baring.
Enjoy the day!

Kathy Van Kleeck said...

Such an amazing journey in such a relatively short time. Thanks for this deeply felt and eloquent post - beautiful.

If we approach every day, every thing with joyous anticipation, I don't think it really matters what we 'do'. That's my own challenge these days - park my ass in joy and don't budge ... not so eloquent, but true for me.

blessings ...

kate mckinnon said...

I love the term "escape goat." I will carry that with me until the End of Days.

Interesting reaction, to contemplate withdrawing from the blog, consider it, and then, instead of retreating, to become even more personal and open. I have had the same reaction, many times. If exposure is uncomfortable, it seems we feel that we should expose more.

I think it's hugely important to share our hopes, dreams, fears, failures, path changes, rejections, second tries, etc. with each other. Otherwise we tend to look at each other and say "it's so easy for them..."

It isn't easy for anyone to really live, really experience each day, and to be honest with ourselves about what is really happening. It's so important to be able to look your own child self in the eye, and say, this is what we grew up to be.

And feel good about it.

I have had a lot of iterations, too, and oddly now I feel like I am just beginning on the path that I was searching for all along.

I enjoyed reading this, thank you, Andrew.

Jeannie said...

This...this right here...this post is why you should never leave the blogging world.

This is lovely.

AJ said...

What strikes me about this post is that with all of your dreams and plans, you actually set out to try them before realizing they were not for you. A lot of people never take any steps towards their dreams, and they miss out on all of the interesting experiences that you just shared with us.

Joan Tucker said...

Andrew, I am not at all surprised by this post. Writers have to write. Period. it is difficult to write and protect our most important aha's at the same time.

So write and be authentic you must. Writing itself clears the head, shakes up the psyche, calls out the muse.. the putting down of the words is like making a brick path to where you need to be- now. As you write you will re direct the path.. make some turns, change pace.. but in my own experience I have found that when people write and they change.

Blessings to you and the story
of you and your shortlived dance career and your days as the party
diva and of all the you's that have come this far..Joan T

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

Andrew--I was a rich girl (didn't realize it--we never discussed money) from a family who socialized only with people like themselves, at certain clubs and certain places no one else was allowed to go. Thanks to my Dad, who "came in through the window" by being a guy from Omaha(even though he was a Yalie, just like the others in the social pack, so he did fit in OK, after all) I was able to realize that what people thought of me was NOT at all what I was interested in. That is why I never did drugs, nor did I wear conventional clothes, nor did I do conventional things. Like my father, I never hurt a soul but I followed my own choices always. Everyone laughed at my Dad when he bought a big 60's Cadillac, used, black, with huge fins and a red leather interior--they even called it a "Jew canoe" or "Bob's kosher kayak". He LOVED that car! Here we were in the midst of a WASP enclave surrounded by tons of Jewish people. He didn't care. He worked in the garment district with Jewish people. Anti Semitism was rampant where I grew up but I wasn't even aware of it. The adults where I lived pretended the Jewish people who surrounded us didn't exist!It was whacky!

My Dad used to come up to our boarding school in that Caddy and take us with our friends out to lunch, and my sis, who wanted a classic station wagon with wood on the sides like everyone else, would cringe at the sight of it. All the other girls parents had those station wagons or Rolls Royces or Daimlers or whaterver. That was the sourse of HER pain. The source of my pain as that I hated the school. My Dad would never buy any car but an American car, after WWII.

My sis still cares what other people think. She is beautiful at 60, and wears cashmere sweaters we inherited from my grandmother, and Hermes scarves, and Diorissimo perfume with her pearls and kilts. I try to explain to her that everyone is being busy thinking about him or herself--and NOT her. Sometimes this helps her, sometimes it doesn't.
When I married my ex husband, whom I divorced after ten years, and a total of 13 years together, it was not because he was Jewish. it was because I was caretaking him like a nurse and then he "freed me"-- he screwed up by doing something unforgivable at the time. It is OK Now. I have forgiven him. The children were never affected, I never badmouthed him. When I had my children with Jim and all three were in Special ED and, of course, two of them have autism, there were members of my family (I can't bear to say who) who thought the autistic ones should be institutionalized. My father told me this "later", thank God. I would have gotten physical. I was also considered "a prostitute" by certain members of the family because I had not waited until marriage (it was the 60's!) for my special nuptial night, and also because I dressed funny.And ore makeup. continues on next post--

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

It was hard going at times --thank God for my Dad--he "got" me. He understood.
Now both my children with autism have seizures, Jim has diabetes, I have arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica in my left leg and two crushed disks in my spine plus a neurological disorder some of you know about. I self medicate by buying the dolls--even though I shouldn't. I used to make jewelry to self medicate but now it is more of a job. I thank the Lord for my wonderful editor in Australia. She and I laugh together so much and I need to laugh right now--and it is hard to.
I am honored to let you know that I have a necklace and some earrings going in the top beaders issue of BeadStyle (June/July?), just as I had in Bead Work two years ago. This helps me but my family is what keep me going strong. Andrew--the flips and flops I have gone through have been pretty awful. There are even more of them--some even worse... I am writing these over here (and avoiding those) cause I figure less people who know me will read them. All I can say to you is, I am 58...and...IF

Somebody...knocks you down, get up again. You are really really good at it. It may not be an honor to know me,. but it sure as heck is an honor to know you.

xox jean

Michelle said...

Andrew...thank you for this post. It is inspiring and gives everyone a chance to know that you are more than just your jewelry. This is the reason I read your blog.
Bead Happy!

Joan Tucker said...

Andrew, the wonderful Jean Yates
said it all; write, be real, live your life. Amen JT

kineticwings said...

Thank you for sharing. It seems to me that you are doing exactly what you are suppose to be doing. :)

Anna said...

Andrew, you have been blessed with many talents and the courage to follow your dreams!

Carry on... I'm sure the future holds many wonderful adventures for you.

artbylmr said...

WOW! What a life you have had. You have lived more than most people do in 80 years.

I hope you have found the dream that will make you happy. Take Care and keep writing and creating!

BTW - Michael Shanks was really sweet and even cuter in person :)