I have to be up in three hours. Yeah, you heard me. Up and going in three hours, at work in 4ish… But I can’t sleep, my brain has been churning non-stop since about 6 pm, and I can’t seem to shut it off, even with my normal routine of reading myself to sleep. (Currently I’m reading Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots, which you should totally, immediately check out…but not until you’ve finished reading my blog.)Bear with me here, this is another one of my random thought tangents that magically tie all of my unconnected thoughts together at the end. Yay non-linear thinking!
What got my ceaseless thinking going, was that as I was laying down to read and go to sleep, I was, um, checking…something… on my, uh, cell phone… Oh alright, I confess, I was playing a silly game. The game, while not particularly thought provoking, did suddenly give me a huge rush of deja vu (it was in fact a game I had never played before). Now, you may be asking yourselves why this matters, and more to the point, why you should continue reading about my already been there moment. Well…because I said it did, and because I said you should. So there. Also I promise if you keep reading there will be a surprise for you down at the bottom of the page. But only if you keep reading!
The way I look at deja vu is that when you experience those moments in life, it means that you are on the right path, that you have made good decisions and things are headed in a positive direction. This way of interpreting deja vu was introduced to me by Christine D’Onofrio a few years back, and it’s really awesome. It’s like a tiny wave from the future/past every time. It is actually quite comforting to think of it in this way. Try it, you’ll like it.
My moment of deja vu got me excited because I haven’t had one in a really long time. Which, after having uprooted myself and my husband, taken on even more student loan debt, and struggled through my first year of grad school, did not exactly have me feel so great. And, as I am wont to do, I was starting to question myself and build myself up into an anxious wreck in anticipation of the start of the school year. In the past few days, I had, in all seriousness, been asking myself if I should really be in grad school, if I really had what it takes, etc… I think I was (am?) starting to dread the school year (something that may very well be a first for me), because I don’t want it to become a repeat of last year where nothing was accomplished. If you missed the finer points, I think the 2011-2012 school year went something like this for me:
Chaos of moving, anxiety, avoiding the studio, making bad art, crying, making some more bad art, drinking A LOT, anxiety, crying some more, avoiding the studio, making even more bad art, making pumpkin cookies, drinking again, crying yet again, kind of getting my shit together, anxiety, making ok art, making terrible art, hiding under a table, getting drunk and watching the Twilight movies (yes, that was a low, even for me), crying once more, drinking a little bit more, baking cup cakes, and making some decent art.
Yeah…that about sums it up. No really…That’s pretty much how it went. Who would want a repeat of that? It was spectacularly disastrous (So much for being the Best At All The Things). So it was partly reassuring to have a small moment of peace, in which I was shown that I was, and have been, going in the right direction. It made me smile, quietly to myself, which is perhaps the best kind of smile.
But my deja vu train of thought got me thinking about something else… Earlier in the evening, I had been proofreading/critiquing an admissions essay that one of the Husband’s cousins had written. Long story short, I was harping on him to make his final goals (beyond education and the specific university he was applying to) crystal clear. I must have told him in five different ways… Good thing it was via a word doc and email…other wise I may have gotten punched in the face. In doing this, however, I thought back to what my ultimate goals were and why exactly I was working toward my MFA. Once upon a time, I had hoped to teach at a college or university, and if I was really lucky, as a tenured faculty member. But tonight I realized that may not be the case anymore…
While that line of thought was running, I had a third, but parallel line going, about how much I really love what I do. I love being an artist, I honestly do. For me though, making art has never been about making money, or having an audience. In fact, I’ve never sold a damned thing (and I’ve been working as an artist in some capacity for 10 years now), and I make art pretty much for myself. It’s a cathartic and expressive experience to me, it is how I make sense of the world around me, and how I make sense of myself. Yes I do show my work, but if people respond, react, or even like my work, its just an added bonus for me. I know many other artists and many of my colleagues out there are cringing at this attitude right now. But it is the truth of how I operate. It is as much a part of my art work as it is a part of me. Do I want to be successful and be able to support myself solely on my art? Well of course, but statistically speaking that’s highly unlikely, so why be untrue to myself? And it is for this reason that I’ve always planned to teach in addition to making art. I also happen to really love teaching.
When I teach older kids and adults, it’s so amazing to me to watch them when they finally grasp and truly understand a concept, to see them get excited about an idea or a project, and then witness the results that your guidance has help to supply. Several times when I’ve taught workshops, my students have been so fired up to try the techniques out for themselves because they had never thought of it, never seen it before, or didn’t think that they could do it themselves. And have come up to tell me as much. They ask questions that really push me to my limits, causing me to think, re-examine my assumptions and perceptions, and of course learn even more so that I can answer those questions!
Teaching little kids, it’s just so fantastic to me seeing them create in such an uninhibited manner. And to see them work out how exactly to do something, or solve some kind of creative problem is just mind blowing. In fact, yesterday at work, I gave my class some free time to do what ever they wanted, and one of the younger boys asked to make a book again. At the beginning of each two week camp session, I have been having the kids make simple little sketch books out of printer paper, card stock and yarn. This little boy liked the activity so much, he has made one of these books nearly every day for the last week and a half! I asked him if he would like me to show him how to make another kind of book, and he was so excited that he dropped the book he had just started working on. I walked him through the 4 or 5 simple steps it takes to make a folded book (that’s a random youtube link giving the gist of folded books if you’re unfamiliar), and then let him go at it. He then proceeded to make 3 of them, trouble shooting little mishaps along the way, and then telling me how cool they were. Wow, what a really awesome moment for me, because it really reinforces the fact that I have all of this knowledge for a reason, and even if I may not use it in my own work, I can share it with others to help them learn about art!
So in sum, I love what I do, both the art making and the teaching aspect. That’s why I was so crushed when I found out I wouldn’t be teaching at FSU in the fall. The opportunity to teach is a HUGE reason why I chose to come to school here. But it’s OK, because even if, when I finish my master’s degree, I don’t wind up finding one of the rare full time university gigs, I can still teach. There are always community colleges, community centers, art camps, museums, schools… Again, I know some of my colleagues might go apoplectic at this idea, but to me, it’s still teaching, I’m still sharing art and art making with the world.
And that, my long suffering, ever patient imaginary readers, brings me around to my moment of deja vu. Despite my anxieties and self doubt, I have some how found myself in the right place in my life once again. Graduate school, while terrifyingly daunting, is providing me not only with better critical/theoretical thinking and challenging me in my art making (so that I can hopefully make a career out of it), but stronger teaching skills and a better resume as well. I lucked into the best summer job ever, making art projects with a group of really great kids. It helped me to remember why I fell in love with art in the first place and reminded me that I love what I do, whether its making or teaching. Even if I have a rough patch… I can survive it, learn from it, and find my self in the right place once more. Now if I get really lucky, Lafayette Arts and Crafts Center will not close, and I will be given the amazing opportunity to teach photography classes there this fall!
Hope you all enjoyed another random tangent brought to you by me and my crazy brain. Keep making some art, even if it is bad. Eventually you’ll get through it and make some OK art, and then in turn you’ll get through to the good art. 🙂 It happens to us all. Or maybe just me. I can’t prove anything either way.
PS, I now I have to be up in 1 hour. So maybe I just won’t even go to sleep. Thank the art gods that tomorrow (today?) is International Dance Day at camp and I don’t actually have to teach anything…. Oh! And I lied about the something cool down at the bottom. Well, not really lied, as I did have something to post for your amusement and gratification for sticking with me through the tangent, but my internet connection is being uncooperative…I’ll save it for the next time.