The day before I moved away from Baltimore I sat down for coffee with my favorite professor. He reminded me of something I said on the first day of class. He asked all of us what we wanted from art school.
I said I want skills.
I meant that I wanted a big tool belt. I wanted welding and poetry and painting.
I wanted to know a thing or two about a thing or two. To walk into classrooms armed with a dozen ways have a conversation. To know how to fret and celebrate in a dozen different languages. Embroider though grief. Crochet through delight.
To know my body in terms of both yoga and puppetry.
To hold my breaking heart with clay and resin.
When I was a freshman my first teaching job was in the psychiatric ward of the Baltimore City Detention Center. I learned to hold talking circles and set boundaries. I discovered my desire to create safe, creative spaces as well as my whiteness and privilege.
Without formal training as a teacher I learned a lot of classroom management the hard way. I worked in schools, rehabilitation centers and after school programs.
I was lucky to build a degree from different studio classes. Early on I painted a lot. I tried ceramics, graphic design, life drawing, video production and editing, sumi ink drawing and performance art. I tried a lot of things and didn’t get great at any of them. My senior thesis was a mash of quilting, video, and installation art.
After graduating I worked for a small community arts organization. Our team created sixteen exhibitions and held sixty-five events all aimed at challenging the stigma of mental illness and addiction. I learned to install an art shows, empathize deeply and be so, so patient.
I also learned things away from school. There were trips to Nicaragua and South Africa, little versions Burning Man, and maybe most importantly a Vipassana meditation group.
I believe I found what I was looking for in Baltimore. I moved away with my partner, Jon. We are moving to Prague at the beginning of February to get certified as English teachers. TEFL will let us travel.
The tool belt I am carrying with me is my best asset. It is heavy and unfinished. I am so relieved to have many ways to understand what we will learn as we travel. But I am also daunted by all the things I feel I should be doing daily. “Should” makes me guilty. “Should” makes art into work. “Should” ruins magic.
If I switch “I should” with “I have the intention of” 2016 becomes a year of big possible.
I have the intention of meditating, journaling, reading the news, running, learning German, sketching, cooking, sculpting, flossing, making mind maps and taking pictures. These are all lenses I want to see the world through.
I have the intention of not being lost in facebook, instagram, my ego, my bad habits, my doubt or apathy.
I have the intention of respecting my work. The way I would like to do that is by making time and space for a different daily practice for each month of 2016.
What would happen if I meditated every day for a month? How might I feel if I really gave myself the gift of focus on that specific practice I love. The same question applies to different ways of making art. It applies to things I have always wished I would do.
Who would I be in a year if I really honored my tool belt, banished apathy and traveled around the world?