This post was written in Spring of 2015, shortly after I graduated from college. It resonated with me today, and I hope it will with you too.
"You are nature. You are perfect, peaceful, and powerful. You don't need to become anything. Just remember who you are..."
This little note was written on a valentine that I received from a co-worker last month. She barely knows me, but she's also the sort of person blessed with an intuitive spirit. You know, that sort of person who you feel instantly naked in front of, who seems to be able to peek inside of your soul? She is a powerhouse of a woman, firm and fierce and ultimately comfortable in her own skin; and the moment that I met her, I knew she would change my life.
She probably has no idea. How could she possibly know that in this moment of my life's story I so desperately needed to hear those words? She probably doesn't know that i've been carrying that scrap of paper around in my purse. Sometimes in my pocket. Everywhere that I go. That i've memorized every word. That I could recreate every inch of the intricate patterned heart that she drew out for me. How could she know?
Those words ring in my head all day long: I don't need to become anything? Wasn't that what all of this was about: becoming something, becoming somebody?
I know now that her quote was altered a bit from one Vironika Tugaleva, a Ukranian author and spiritual philosopher. A cultivator of self-love and mental health and unleashing of inner potential. I like my co-workers' version better. It snakes around in her hand-drawn heart and ends up back at the beginning. "Just remember who you are...nature. You are perfect.". I'm starting to remember who I am. I am remembering that I am nature.
I don't feel natural lately. I think that I have art school to blame partly for that. I have myself partly to blame for it too, but it feels better to blame an institution. I spent three and a half years learning a lot of wonderful, life-affirming lessons; about the power of art and the artist and about what I could do with my hands and my mind and sometimes a black mechanical box called a camera. But I also learned about competition and comparison and greed and hunger and power. Art can give you power. It can make you feel powerless too.
I am only two months out of undergrad, but I can tell you this: the hard part about being an "artist" is not the being consistently broke, or the living with your mom, or the late nights, or the callouses, or the starting over when it's not quite right. The hard part is the power. When you don't have it. Sometimes when you do. I think that i'm learning the key: to place the power in your own creativity. It's tricky and I feel certain when I say that this is something most "artists" are never able to do. It's definitely not something that current, post-grad me can do.
Post-grad me feels crumpled. Clobbered by my complete loss of power. Laid low by rejection and fear and realization. But there are tiny cracks, a few moments in the last weeks, days, hours, where a bit of truth shines through. Where my creativity takes over and i'm able, for that short period of time, to take the control back; to have the power. I can feel it in brushstrokes, in the tune of a favorite song, in these words that I write to you.
I am so far from figuring it out. I know now deep down that I will never quite figure it all out.
I hope that I never fool myself into thinking that I do.
If you are reading this today and you feel powerless, or lost, here is my (admittedly late) valentine to you:
Just remember, you are (perfect, peaceful, powerful). You so are.