Self: what distinguishes you from me.
All of our lives, we’re told things about ourselves, be it our appearance, character, or personality…some of them hyperbolic in nature, others simply true. And any time I’ve been asked to look into the mirror or create a self portrait, explain what I look like to someone who cannot see, etc, one hundred percent of the time, I fixate on those hyperbolic mentions first, rather than looking at who/what I really am.
I was asked to make a self portrait…And being in the art department for over a year now, this has probably been the fifth self portrait I’ve made. So I started thinking about how I am affected by that process, of trying to make a bajillion marks on a page that end up looking like me in the end, but being influenced most by these characteristics that other folks see rather than reality itself. I decided to dive into the technique that is often taught in intro level art courses, focusing entirely on your subject rather than your piece the whole time you are drawing. Drawing blindly.
I thought that doing this this would steer me away from focusing so much on these thoughts engrained in my mind only because of those surrounding me, but instead, I walked into one of the most agonizing experiences of life itself. Literally staring at myself to complete twelve drawings, enveloped me into a new state of thinking. Now it’s not that I hate looking at myself in the mirror or anything like that, because everyone knows I’m always trying to have my hair/makeup on fleek…but staring and focusing on nothing other than yourself creates this soul-filled, spiritual connection with yourself..alone and isolated. And that is so dang uncomfortable.
This got me thinking about just how valuable it is to be driven by the experience you have while making, to cherish that process…even if it’s totally uncomfortable.
Agony, March 2017
It was about this time last year, that I made the decision to become an art major, giving up my long-thought dream of becoming a teacher only to start studying art and making my hobby, my lifestyle. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what this year has looked like for me, and in the heat of pre-finals week, the only thoughts running through my mind seem to be “Was this really worth it?” And I keep coming back to an answer of “Yes.” And not even a haphazard one, more like “Hell yeah!”
Over the course of the year, I’ve learned how to draw my face on a piece of paper (a huge victory!), make a crappy bowl on a wheel, and how to go to town with some power tools. But I’ve also met some professors that have been the few to tell me to keep going when I wanted to give up, I’ve had to fight for what I love, and best of all, I’ve found my people. Yeah, the ones that I can be stupidly goofy with and that I can wear my plaster-covered overalls around and they love me the same. The ones that when I wear glitter on my face, they tell me I look like a fairy instead of a child. These are the same people I get to cry with when our crap falls apart at the last minute and the ones I rejoice with over the one day-extension for a project deadline. The ones I stay up with until six o clock in the morning to perfect our piece. They’re those people.
This past year has been the most windy up and down-turn about back and forth whirlwind of a year, it’s been full of tears, life change, art related and not, but the fact that I have gotten to come back to the studio nearly every day of the week and create things has been reassuring. It’s been safe. Even when things fell apart at the last moment and when finishing that piece meant I got thirty minutes of sleep in order to make it to critique on time, it all seemed worth it and I’m confident it will continue to be so.
So, “thank you.” Why? Because I would likely be dead without you. And if I wasn’t dead I would be having a mental breakdown at the end of each and every week. I could never have expected to receive the amount of unconditional love that I do from all of you. I know, sometimes it’s hard to accept a thank you when it’s over some mode of social media and you feel removed, hardly involved, and like there is nothing to be thanked for, but in all vulnerability, sometimes, I feel like you all are right here with me. The me when I’m bright and cheery, exhausted and cranky, delusional and loopy, and when I’m just “me.” I don’t know how you put up with me, but you do it so well and so lovingly. Thank you.
So, as I’m wondering how on God’s green earth I’m going to finish everything that needs to be completed this quarter, and questioning my very existence because I’m graduating before too long, I come back to understand my heart just a little bit better. I’d be lost if I didn’t get to make things each day. I’d be lost if I didn’t have my people. You know? This was just right for me, it’s been a year, I tell ya, but it’s been a good one.
Farewell, gotta go make some things.
This is going to be one of my shorter posts, one I write in one sitting, on one train of thought, and I’m intentionally choosing not to post it as a status on social media because I want to encourage whoever is reading this to choose their posture very carefully. I want you to pause for a second, and just read, just hear me out on this. You’re probably like: “but you’re white. but your dad is a cop…what the hell could you have to say that is worth me reading that isn’t going to royally piss me off?” But hey, I’ve thought about this a lot. I mean A LOT.
My father is a police officer. And has served in the realm of law enforcement for about as long as I’ve been on this earth. Thus, most of his friends are also police officers. And for the last five or so years, as there has been a massive increase of attention paid to “police brutality,” (and I put that in quotations not in reference to sarcastic tone, but because that is what the masses like to call it), I for a long time, felt inclined to immediately go on defense mode. I mean, from my perspective, I looked at it as, I’ve grown up around cops my entire life and have spent time in the station, and have not once heard the cops surrounding me refer to those black or brown lives as anything less than the white lives that are some their own, because let us remind ourselves, that no, not all officers are white men. It was hard for me to see countless, who I believed to be ignorant people, shaming people who I spent my childhood looking up to, and grew up getting to know as truly stand-up human beings who put their lives on the line each day that they wake up to go to work.
It took me a while.
It took me a while to have this realization that I have no authority to be having this inner battle with myself, trying to decide whose life was worth being taken, because the answer is always going to be no body’s. It shouldn’t be “Oh, should it have been the black boy or the cop?” No one should ever make that call. Last time I checked, no one life is more worthy than the next. See, I was never one of those “All lives Matter” people because here’s what I have to say to that: Duh. We all know that. I had it explained really well to me once. They said something to the effect of, “When we say black and brown lives matter, we aren’t saying that those lives are more important than the rest, that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is recognizing that there’s hundreds and hundreds of black and brown lives being taken every year purely because they are black. Purely because they are brown. That’s all, it’s kind of a no-brainer that all lives matter, it’s just this is the ‘here.’ This is the ‘now.’ We need to respond.”
It makes sense, right?
So, here’s the deal. When I hear a life is taken, ANY life, it destroys my heart. When I hear a life of a young, innocent black boy is taken, in a case of injustice, I want to shout at the rooftops because it reminds me just how much work is still to be done in this world. And just how much people need to be educated about the injustices of our marginalized communities. When I hear about a cop taking someone’s life, I have to question whether or not there was prior action that dignified that action, because the police exist for a reason, they have a job to do, and they have just as much of a right to safety as you or I. When I hear about an officer committing murder for an unjust cause, I can hardly come up with words to express the depths of my rage. Why? You know why. Because that was a life taken, and when that life is a black life, a brown life, a queer life, a life that is often silenced, yet again, they are left with no voice and left to mourn yet another day.
I will actively stand with our law enforcement and will not condone the generalized hate that the masses communicate toward those who give the ultimate sacrifice each day; however, with that being said, I believe that there is a problem. A HUGE problem that exists within our culture, within our society, one that goes far beyond our police, that is embedded within our institutions and our community’s structure, that contributes to the general hate toward these groups.
Yes, my father is a police officer. And yes, I am confident when I state that I recognize the injustices that exist in this country, knowing that change must persist. And yes, I believe that education is all of our most powerful weapons in this uphill battle, because when I call myself a fighter for social justice, it’s not about siding with the victim or the accusor…it’s about taking the side of what’s right. It’s as simple as that.
This year. Wow. I feel weird writing this post, to be completely honest…maybe it’s because it’s surreal to me that it’s over. Maybe because accepting that the year is over means basically all of my friends leaving: going to Law School, going to be the best teacher in the world, going into the Army, going to change the business world, going literally all over the country and all of the world. Maybe because it means I’m one year closer to “the real world…” Maybe because the entire year literally felt like a month. I’m truly unsure. BUT I think it’s going to be a journey to try to encapsulate my thoughts about this year in this one post…but hey, I’ll sure try.
This year brought me to a place of newness. I got to have the opportunity to be in Student Government (I’ll get to that later), I changed my entire major, I got to immerse myself in opportunities that allowed me to experience Jesus in a new way and struggle all the while, I gained some of the best friends I could ever ask for, and I ultimately, had a completely insane year that I can hardly put into words. Bits of it: complete hell, others: utter joy. As many of you, or those who know me well, know, I sleep very little. Like very very little. I work myself to death, between first and foremost, my studio work, but second, my work in Student Government.
Fortunately but unfortunately, my experience this year in ASCWU-SG has completely transformed me. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean transformed me as a person…I wouldn’t let it. However, I do mean that it transformed me in a way that has given me a new way to look at not only the world, but more specifically, higher education and politics and the “higher-ups,” for lack of better terms. I realize that though the position that I ran for is a political position, I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for how much of this job is just that: politics, and how little of it goes to do what you were put in that position to do: make a difference. And the best part about it, when you are looked at as a criminal for questioning that political obligation, seeing representing students as the number one priority (please see my sarcasm). There were a great series of events that happened over the course of the year that prompted me with a choice: I can sit here in this position of so-called power/shared governance (which is literally all complete hear-say and crap, but that’s what they like to call it –yeah, we’ll call them “they”) and I can absorb the mentality of “them,” undergo complete manipulation and go along with their agenda OR I can choose to respond adversely. But responding adversely even has its caveats. This is what hit home with me and really was a pivotal point in my time serving on this board: I can absorb this cynical mindset, literally losing all hope, or I can realize the reality of what exists around me, and go at it, head first, unapologetically, and be motivated by their inability to serve with genuine qualities.
I struggled A LOT this year. Beyond anything that seemed petty, I simply struggled to watch them use us, use students in order to jump start their own agenda and priorities. Oh, you want to do something that would unquestionably benefit students? “Our budget matters more.” “My reputation matters more.” “Do you know what that would look like to the general population.”..Or my personal favorite: “Don’t you care about how people remember you?” NO. Absolutely not. Why? Because I am not trying to promote myself, make others look at me as though I walk on water…Because before anything, I care about students. And it’s a shame that more than anything, this year has shown me that they well… don’t.
They gave me the reputation of being highly emotional, being hot-headed, being one who is “too caught up in her feelings.” Respectfully, I may ask that they work to understand why. Yeah, I’ve got plenty of feelings, I’m emotional, but I’ll tell you why, because I absorb the heart of those around me and when the students hurt, I hurt. In meetings while in hefty debate, if tears stream down my face or my voice raises above that of their robotic murmur, let us understand that my emotions aren’t simply “getting the best of me,” believe it or not, I can still operate in a rational state of mind, but rather than working to discover this truth about me, they liked to make general blanket statements saying I’ll regret my decisions because I’m in a “flighty” state of mind. Yes, that’s right…I forget how to think when I raise my voice — logic at its finest, friends.
Perhaps this position enlightened me to a point where now I understand what it feels like to have someone uphold zero respect for you, what it feels like to be silenced. Let me explain something: I’m not the kind of woman who walks into a space expecting that people bow down to me each time I open my mouth — nor do I want them to…I’m not the kind of woman who wants people to uphold a sense of obligation to this idea that they have to listen in order to not be perceived as sexist…I am, however, the kind of woman who walks into a space, expecting that I will be given the opportunity to voice my ideas (just like him…like them). I am the kind of woman who walks into the room wanting to earn the respect of the people in it because of my quality, innovative ideas, but please understand that that is completely impossible if I’m never given the chance. I’ve been silent at times, when appropriate, but never once have I had someone “hush” me, unless of course it was inappropriate giggling during a test in grade school, let alone a man of an authority position who likes to say he is an advocate for students. ALL students, this includes those lowly women who only later I find out he would refer to as “that girl on the board,” because no sir, I forgot I don’t have a name.
It was the day after this meeting, where I was still restless at the thought that there are people operating within this institution who literally have no idea what is at the best interest of students. I was speaking with some of my classmates about this interaction where I was “hushed,” explaining to them some of my discomforts. How each time I would open my mouth to speak, I was interrupted, the men not. (and this isn’t some rant against men, please do not see it to be so, it’s the unfortunate reality of a woman like me’s experience navigating the realm of higher education, which primarily consists of older men, who have little respect for anyone who doesn’t look like them). With my classmate I even expressed this interaction where we (students) were “called out” for not knowing the role of this specific man, for not knowing his job duties, somethings that is almost humorous, considering the above consideration that reminds us all that no, this man doesn’t even know my name. My friend’s only response:
“It genuinely bothers me to know this, because you were elected to represent us students, and if a sixty-something year old white man can’t even let you mutter your thought, he must think he knows what’s better for me than you do. And no. I don’t trust them to know what I need because they don’t know me.”
See it was things like this, all throughout the year. I had to ask myself why. Why are they even here then? It’s not fair to any one of us, especially the ones who don’t know what they’re really like. Here’s where we come back to that choice: how am I to respond to this reality? Do I gain a sense of cynicism or do I go at it with my all, head first, not giving a care in the world what comes of my actions, as long as I have one thing straight: I’ve got students on my mind 100% of the time. It’s not about me. It’s not about them. It’s not about the piss-poor way that they treat us, it’s about the students and being willing to undergo whatever necessary (even if you feel like crap because of it) to ensure students’ needs are at least being, at least heard. I obviously chose the latter, but had to work through the cynicism to get there, but it’s not worth it to stay.
Once I made the choice to shift my mindset (not to let my foot off the pedal, but yes, shift my mindset), I began to realize that I’ve got so much going that I cannot lose sight of through my bitterness and resentment toward these people. My utter frustration isn’t worth sacrificing my well-being as a human. I’ll sacrifice a whole lot; however, to lose sight of the fact that I’ve got a wonderful set of friends, an awesome family, and a God who loves unconditionally and let all of that take a back seat, that friends…that is what you call a mistake. My advice: recognize that the system is jacked…they’ll tell you that you can’t: prove them wrong, please, because you most certainly can. Do everything in your power to fight for what you believe in and stand up for what is right, it can be thankless, but that’s okay, it is well worth it in one hundred other ways, and beyond anything else, keep close to you, the things that matter most, they will be what gets you through the fight.
They asked me, “Olivia, why aren’t you running for Student Government again?” — you can only imagine the long list of reasons I would like to give, but respect, yeah, respect is a thing.
“You really want to know? It’s because I care too much. That’s the sad truth.”
Last week, I was given an assignment to create a lighted structure that represents volume and mass, using some sort of translucent material. I hated the assignment, quite honestly; it seemed kitschy. Long and short of it: I’ve been feeling the urge lately, to respond to the apathetic, unknowledgeable way that the world responds to women and their, now, please don’t giggle, but their “time of the month” or the entire culture and all of the implications of women and menstruation and what that really means.
Needless to say, I was about to make a structure entirely of pads and wire, knowing that embarking on this so-called journey would imply awkward moments that shouldn’t even be awkward in the first place, a great deal of thought provoking emotion, and beyond anything else, I had hoped this would trigger responsive critique and conversation: that people would be uncomfortable, but it would leave them yearning for understanding.
Even at the stage of me buying five gigantic packages of heavy duty pads, I was left entirely convicted. I spent about a half an hour in the “oh-so-dreaded aisle” trying to decide which pads to buy based off of their packaging and which I wanted to utilize in my piece, I was left stunned as the store manager walked by the aisle every two minutes staring at me as though concern was stirring in him and he wanted to ask if I was finding everything okay, but couldn’t quite muster up the courage to walk down this aisle, let alone, perhaps talk to me about PADS, *gasp* not pads… Not to mention my frustration with the fact that the aisle was lined with displays of candy as though supplementing a woman’s natural body process with a bunch of sugar is going to solve her every problem and make her just a little less “psycho.” Trust me, it’s not random placement of a display. But anyways, after loading up my basket, I was tempted to use the Self Checkout to purchase these items, an unfortunate temptation as why on earth should I feel embarrassed to buy these items!? I proceed to a normal checkout line, challenging my very human nature. As I unloaded my basket, I promised myself I wouldn’t fall into the trap of being feeling pity or shame about the contents of my basket, but no two seconds later, there I go, there I went. I HATE the fact that I had to justify my purchases, and this comes from me, a woman comfortable with the human body and everything that comes along with it. What about that is fair? Hell, the same could be said about purchasing condoms. What’s shameful about safe sex?
So, today, on critique day, after staying up until about 5:00 in the morning finishing this piece, ensuring that all of the pads and their wrappers are in place and that the anatomical wire heart structure suspended within, just perfectly, I move the structure to the podium, where no later I began to explain the posture I encouraged my classmates to uphold when viewing this piece. “Many of you and other people who have seen this piece throughout its creation have commented about the humor of this piece…I would ask of you and encourage you to look past that humor aspect that so many of you see, simply so you can better understand the nature of this piece and can understand its connotation,” I said. The room went dead and I turned the light on. Yes, this is what I wanted, silence, a tone of contemplation and maybe uncomfort.
But one thing, the primary component of my piece did not appear: this anatomical heart that I had crafted in order to create a bridge to discuss the connection between the way that society likes to view a woman’s heart in terms of their menstrual cycle. Frustration, that’s what I felt. All I saw was this (image below). All I saw was a pink box, with the intentional roughness and rawness, but nothing to trigger that conversation. But just then, a classmate steps forward, peering in the spaces, he sees the heart, and gasps, the room still quiet. An emotional experience for me, as I begin to love what started happening, a mild curiosity that invited people to ask those further questions. I then began to discuss the heart behind this piece, and tell those stories (above). Just then, some quotes worth capturing:
“I’m almost scared of it. I don’t want to go near it.” –professor
“At first, I thought you were implying that connection between a woman’s period and them being a psycho, but now I “get” it. That’s why you telling your story is so important to this piece.” –male classmate
“I will never ever understand what you [women] go through, so thank you for sharing your experience through this piece.” –male classmate
“I like that I have to look for the heart on the inside. It reminds me how a woman’s heart is so hidden, and yet their periods are all that someone may draw conclusions from or may base their thoughts off of.” –female classmate
“This is so familiar. It makes me feel something even from just looking at the tears and the shred on the wrappers.” –female classmate
He’s scared to go close to it because it’s a raw piece and exhorts a tone of mourning and hurt.
His mind went immediately to the psycho lady on her period because that’s where most people’s go, but that is why we tell our stories, so they can understand.
He thanked me for being open and sharing because not enough people do.
She liked looking for the heart on the inside of the box and making that connection because we all desire the opportunity to relate to the art and the stories that surround us.
She felt something after just looking at the tears on the wrappers because she is a woman and this experience is so raw and real for each and every one of us.
See, initially, I was pissed that this awesome wire heart element was completely missing from my piece, but so quickly, my demeanor shifted after a moment or two. When my classmates and professor started making those connections, and prompted me to tell my story, the entire mood of the room became raw. People were real. And then they started to share their stories. And it was beautiful.
When the room fell to a silence several times, and was later followed by emotions being poured out, I knew it was a success. As an artist, that is my one desire, that my art would make people feel. And for them to yearn to understand an issue such as that of which I described previously, thank God.
After class, my male classmate came up to me, gently touched my arm, and proceeded to tell me: “That was great. Seriously, seriously great. Thank you for being open and sharing your story.” Words like that, that’s why I do what I do. It all becomes purposeful.
Since about the age of six, I’ve been told “Oh, you’re so creative.” It would always start, as it does for children, with scribbling, escalate to coloring, we would then dream up our own personal rendition of what human life looked like, and then our imagination would come in to play and we would start to dream up our own organic forms and justify them with some ridiculous explanation that only makes sense to us. This art exploration process as a young child was something that would of course appear to be some “hobby-like” form, as most interests of children are dismissed immediately if they are not a product of the interests of those who surround them. But for child artists, this process — of creating — reaches to provide further satisfaction and sense of fulfillment, that as a young child, is rather hard to articulate, let alone explain.to people who are unwilling to even try to “get” it.
The stigma surrounding support of artists is difficult to explain, and I’m almost sure that it has to begin with this lack of support from day #1. In the home, all a child’s most prized work of art typically amounts to is maybe a month or two on the refrigerator, being held up, crooked, by some tacky magnet.But a child wouldn’t dare demand more. And the rest is history: they don’t understand because our voice is meek. It’s so very hard to force someone to want to support you when the push-back is so likely. And we’d normally be okay with push-back, but our art is something personal and brings us to a place of vulnerability, not something we want to parade around for the sake of gaining support.
It’s impossible, however, to explain where that lack of support from artists’ peers asthey grow older comes from, but there’s this thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s because they don’t live in our weird artist-brains, and in some way, that’s completely okay because we won’t all ever “get” each other. But at the same time, I come back to ask myself, is it okay? Because there’s a difference between the businessperson who doesn’t support the financial analyst and the businessperson doesn’t support the artist. It simply looks different — it doesn’t come from a place of difference in principle, it’s that whole entitlement thing that a lot of us — myself included find it difficult to talk about. Why, because we hate that guilt thing, but it’s important to acknowledge this natural default that society has created because it’s a really really unfortunate reality, and it may be nearly impossible to derive the true root of that separation.
See this is what I’m talking about:
Walking up to a legislator to discuss higher education issues just a month ago: Him: “Oh, what are you studying?” Me: “I am currently getting my undergraduate in Studio Art and Nonprofit Management.” And before my sentence even came to a close, there in-lies an immediate shift in his posture, a mere tilt of the head, almost as though he wanted to ask, “Then why are you here?” and a small squint of the eyes. Part of me wishes that people like him would ask why I was there, so then I would have the opportunity to express my understanding of the need for students who are knowledgeable to advocate for resources and services that are crucial to their development at the institution in which they are enrolled in. Because we don’t have to be in political science or law and justice to be informed or to simply just care.
For some reason, this thought has been formed, or at least some days it seems, that artists do not or cannot exist in the academic world. As someone who wouldn’t be able to solve a simple math problem, or read a book and articulate its simple words: our world’s artists worth is being cheapened for reasons that have no basis of integrity. We don’t sit there and finger paint all the live long day, we don’t just sit there and talk about and marinade in our own existential thought circles, and believe it or not, we aren’t all stuck in this extremist, liberal world, looking for opportunities to belittle others’ ideas only to bring glory to our own agenda. See, we get labeled with this word a lot: “Dreamer.” Yeah, they may be right, we dream and we dream big. BUT, it’s a hard notion to express, but we are more than that. Our heads aren’t just stuck up in the clouds, we dream intentionally, with purpose and reason, and dream about things that most deem in the realm of the impossible, but to artists, what is that…what is impossible?
It goes — we go, a lot deeper than that… Our minds see depth and see richness, we crave more and more, but no one cares to ask why. Not that what’s on the surface won’t suffice, but think like this, and maybe you’ll get why: when we spend our lives creating pieces, productions, and art that have so much depth to them and mean something great, and the world gives nothing but the basics in return, we can’t help but crave that sense of depth.
Just a couple months back, I was having this conversation with my friend, Kevin. Kevin is someone who, passing by, you may think his ears would perk up at the thought of a conversation about the creative realm; however, I tend to deny my urge to overload everyone by sharing my art with them. Because sharing art, that doesn’t mean giving them a five second peek at your artwork and putting it away. It means taking them on your adventure that you already tell yourself that they don’t want to hear, even though sometimes…they do, and again, it’s a vulnerability thing. How I talked before about people not understanding our minds and that being the element that creates this stigma, that’s where this comes into play. As artists, we want to share our wack-job minds with you and we want you to be so intrigued by them that you can’t help but beg for more.
But anyways, back to my story about Kevin. So, in January, he was up in my office space at my University for an open house we were hosting, and as we were catching up on the latest and greatest in both of our lives, he started asking me about the pieces I was currently working on. One being a self portrait I had just completed, which let’s face it, I loathe even the thought of self portraits… Anyways, so I begin explaining the premise of this assignment and skirting around the basics of what choices I made, or what I liked and didn’t like about the finished product, he then goes, “So, you keep saying design choice, give me an example of a design choice you made and tell me why it was a good one, and then tell me a design choice you wish you could have changed.” Now that sounds like a simple question, but it spoke volumes in comparison to the responses that my friends typically provide, and this entire conversation that had just happened brought me to a new place of realization. See, normally when I show someone a piece, they say something to the effect of “I don’t get it.” with no follow up. But I’ll tell ya, when Kevin gave me the opportunity to share the motivation of my intentional design choices and expressed genuine interest in understanding the why, I maybe then, for the first time “got” it. Speaking generally, the separation between artists // art // and the rest of the populous // world is created because the appropriate opportunity to have these conversations rarely presents itself. Whose fault that lies in the hands of is of question, but one thing is for certain, we artists, we so so desperately want to teach you and want to show you what’s going on upstairs, but it’s hard to get there sometimes.
It’s been interesting having conversations with my fellow artists in the past few months, hearing about the ways in which art brings them ultimate satisfaction and joy in ways of which other things will not and cannot. See, the way that art reaches us humans is deep deep down, into the trenches of our hearts and the corners of our brain that are merely inaccessible by so many means. I have friends with parents who hate their lifestyles and friends who don’t know how to outwardly express the chaos stirring inside of them: creating their art is the only, and I mean only way for them to be able to release that tension that so tightly binds their heart and so wildly confuses their mind. The way that my mind goes to a place rest and chaos when I am painting is explainable, and my greatest wish is that everyone can experience it.
A real artist? How could we even be confined to such a brief description? A real artist isn’t just a dreamer, not just someone who begs to find depth in things that simply have none. An artist isn’t someone who should be segregated from academia. A real artist is a creator, a person who seeks reason and purpose. An artist has potential and can bring ideas to life.
Artists shape the way that we see the world.
There becomes a point, where as humans, we should be utterly disturbed by some of the happenings that surround us. We should be so put off by them that we can’t help but respond. And by some kind of way, we justify reasons to dismiss that discomfort and that off-putting feeling.
There should be NO reason that we as Americans are okay with seeing families sleep on the concrete with maybe a blanket being all that keeps them warm in the chilling 20 degrees of winter. No reason that we should be okay with knowing that there are thousands of children EVERY DAY being sold into sex slavery. No reason that we should sleep soundly knowing that so many women fear to go home to their husbands..No reason for people being murdered left and right with no people begging the question why. Yet there are people who are sitting on the sideline, indifferent, who are apathetic. We as a human race should be allies and justice-seekers & fighters and people who do not need to be begged to see that this is a problem.
All politics and personal beliefs aside, this isn’t a rant to make us all feel guilty that we don’t pay attention to what’s around us, this is a call to action that should convict your heart and make you uncomfortable. It should disturb you. It’s about time that we all need to do something.
Nothing is to say that I know what that something is, but it’s sure worth exploring, wouldn’t you say?
Because that man that I just passed laying underneath the freeway as it’s unbearably cold outside..yeah, there is no reason for that. Absolutely none.
As change ensues, us humans are overwhelmed with a sense of unrest and uncomfort. The self-battle this triggers is one that begs the question of whether or not that unrest is a good thing or whether it will drive us into a downward spiral, questioning our very existence. I think that sense of wonder is where it has got to end. Living life purely seeking comfort is a dangerous lie to become entangled in, but surely an easy one.
It is necessary to separate the notion of living in a comfortable state and allowing your heart to be comfortable when you become satisfied living an unfulfilling life just because it’s easy. That’s it, simple as that.
The reason that I felt so inclined to write this post was spurred by the most recent change in my life, which will more clearly articulate the heart behind this post. Just two days ago, I completed the paperwork to change my entire course of education. See, being a special education teacher has been my supposed dream for about eight years now and come early last week, I felt overwhelming opposition and struggled to even think about the potential that this dream may not actually be what I am called to do for the rest of my life.
“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22
I then asked: “If not this, then what?” How would I go from having it all figured out for eight years of my life, to suddenly realizing that everything is about to change and having no clear look at the future? Just as that question was muttered, “Art! Of course, art..” See, that’s where I start realizing, hey it’ll all work out.” But still lingering in my head, the thought of not having control of really really big decision is actually terrifying. But let’s face it, the following thoughts are all true.
I started to realize after this convicting moment, that what I had perceived my future to look like if I were to continue on the same track of education, would not be the reality in which I am confident I am called to live.
See, when you are pushed beyond your zone of comfort, we cannot be held back by our desire to combat change. We cannot succumb to this earthly ideal that we need to have a clear look at the rest of our lives and strive for money and status in order to be a person of worth, that’s a rough life to get caught up in; it’s more important to pursue a life that will be fulfilling and will ensure godly joy. That means a joy that is everlasting and does not waiver from day to day: a joy that is rooted within the Gospel, the story of Jesus. For me, this looked like be stepping beyond the realm of comfort that I had forced myself to live within for so many years and embracing a new way of living, one that may not be sure and may not be set in stone, but one that I have been called to live.
So, while I’ve got you here, I’m not saying “Hey, question every aspect of your life to ensure it’s the “right” path, whatever that means. But more so, I say with a posture of encouragement: never ever feel like you have to settle. When you’ve got that gut feeling that leads you to a place of questioning your next move, don’t dismiss that feeling. Dive into it. Search for purpose and know that comfort isn’t worth sacrificing your joy.
That’s it: I’m a studio art major and I’m overwhelmed with peace because of it.
I am going to preface this whole post by stating that my intention is surely not to throw down the guilt and make everyone on planet Earth feel as though they are selfish or wrong; my reason for writing this takes roots in my years of battling with the “proper” or “just” reaction to walking or driving down the streets, seeing people who are struggling, which of course, means many different things, but I promise it is not just “some dude with a sign begging for money on the street corner.” There’s more to their story, there’s more to all of our stories.
When I was growing up, I would see a homeless person on the street and immediately look away, and I mean quickly, thinking they wouldn’t notice. I like to call this a nice attempt at avoiding the boarding of the guilt train. It’d go a little something like this, (this is my attempt to articulate my mental process that would begin each time I’d see a homeless person) : Oh, there they are. *Walks to the opposing side of the sidewalk as if they are going to rip my very shoes off of my feet* Of course, I’d try to read their sign or get a better look at their “situation” as though they are some ET-like creature. Then, they’d probably notice that I was walking at the pace of a slug and try to make eye contact with me, and of course I’d look away instantly, and continue walking in a peppy strut down the street. Then my mind starts trailing off about how incredibly sad it is that they are sitting there in the dirt, and I’d probably think of the worst possible scenario about what events preceded their journey on the streets of the city. Then I’d probably go eat a nice lunch or something and would completely forget about what I had seen, because ignorance is bliss, right?
Now, after you just read that you’re probably thinking all sorts of thoughts to the effect of “wow, that’s really shallow” or “how ignorant of her, I can’t believe people actually think that.” But truth be told, I’ll make the hasty assumption that 90% of us do some sort of variation of this very scenario that I just walked you through, and if you’re of that 10%, thank you. We need more people like you.
So, I’ve recently come across some thoughts in my brain that have prompted me to rethink this habitual response to seeing people who are struggling on the street. Brace yourselves, because these are scattered and have seemingly no “flow,” they’re just thoughts, that’s all.
I was leaving Fred Meyer in Kent, Washington, where I saw a woman on the sidewalk with a sign, asking people for support of her and her children whom she was raising independently. Initially, this was my thought, and yes, it sounds incredibly rude, “I bet she doesn’t even have children.” Then, I caught myself: So, who on God’s green earth am I to make an out of line judgment about a stranger whom I wasn’t even willing to ask her to share her story? What gives me the right to even mutter those thoughts? Absolutely nothing. So here I am, driving along with money in my purse, right? And I’m presented with a couple of options: One, I keep driving, thinking “oh, if she really needs the money, she’ll stay out there long enough for other people to give it to her” or Two, I stop, hand her some money or bring her food, or maybe even have a quick lunch with her and maybe, just maybe, let her know that she is valuable and she is worthy. And for what? That may put me out, thirty seconds, maybe thirty minutes tops, and oh, God forbid, ten dollars that would probably otherwise fall into an abyss, where I would buy something completely unfulfilling.
Here’s how I look at it: yeah, she maybe would spend that money on alcohol or drugs or whatever have you, but when it comes down to it, as a human being, I like to look at my purpose as being one to go to ends to serve others and meet their needs. If I were to let the measly time or money go, I’m doing my part. I’m meeting her needs and anything beyond that is out of my control. As someone who loves Jesus and hopes to spend my life reflecting the love that Jesus has inflicted on me, on others, it should really be instinct to give. Deuteronomy 15:10 reads: “You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him: because that for this thing the LORD your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to.” Our concern shall not rest in the ideology that we must dictate this stranger’s needs because we all think we know better than they do. It doesn’t work like that.
So then, it comes back to the heart behind giving. Do we give because we think we want to help them? Do we give because we feel as though it’s our duty? Do we give to feel better about ourselves? Or is it in some sick way, an opportunity for us to find pleasure in someone else being reliant on us? Maybe, just maybe, what it is, is just that we realize that someone is in a less than ideal state of living, and we feel so inclined to share love by giving. Giving in any capacity. If it’s about “good karma” and self satisfaction, maybe a change of heart is in order, because if I remember correctly, it’s about them, not us.
THEM. not us.
I guess this whole post has allowed me to process this topic even more thoroughly. Believe me, it’s tough to process, and I hope what it prompts you to do is simply think about your heart for people on the street. I want to do people right when I give, don’t get me wrong, but in the end, we’ve all got a story and no matter what the outcome of your gift is, you’ve taken a step to love someone better and that’s really really neat. People need more love. And when I say that, what I mean is that people need to be shown action that is motivated by a heart of love.