When the Going Gets Tough

When the Going Gets Tough

Still from video piece, A Place to Move 

Aside from my recent announcements over the last two weeks, I have not been posting much of anything since March. Update: the going has been going, and while a lot of it is great and fun, there is a huge chunk of it that is tough. This journey as artist has never been smooth for me, but the waters are particularly rough right now. My emotions and mental state have been relatively the same: constant up and down. Between finding work (money), paying down debts, trying to live as healthy as I can, making art and finding ways to process this prison called colonialism, my anxiety is mostly up. But so is my gratitude, since I count my blessings everyday and I am aware that I have a lot to be thankful for.

The blessings still do not necessarily relieve the experiences of pain and stress. Most of the time, I am raw, like an exposed nerve, because my work requires it (and in all honesty, I require it of myself). Thinking back, I never really wanted to be a visual artist as a career. As a child, when I imagined what I would be growing up, I knew I would be a biologist, an archeologist, an architect, a social worker, a community organizer, a writer… Like any kid, I went through many options over time. In undergrad, I decided I would be an academic scholar and professor. Although I continued my art through college, it was a side note.

And I tried to keep it a side note as much as possible. I even stopped making art for a period after college. My thinking at the time: What’s the point? Art makes no money and it makes no direct change, so why even do it? I eventually found my way back to it through photography (and a very nurturing and inspiring mentor/friend by the name of Polly Steinmetz). When I started taking photos, I became excited about life again. I realized that this is where I belong. I am an artist. I thought: I might as well embrace it, despite my fears of being poor my whole life because of it.

I made a commitment to my practice because it saved my life (and even though that sounds corny, I mean it in the most literal way). It brought me back to me. And nothing gets my gears going more than art (in all of its forms). So here I am now, 2 years post grad school, and my practice keeps bringing me amazing opportunities, as well as some rough terrain to navigate (but I am committed to navigating it).

Things have been rocky and most days, I am not sure how I feel or if I am coming or going. Outside of my own bubble, black people are still being murdered, thousands of children are being detained in US concentration camps (let’s call them what they are), we continually disrespect the environment and animals… I have nothing new to say that hasn’t already been said. My disgust is a thick aftertaste in the back of my throat. On edge? Of course, who isn’t?

There is no positive twist or good vibe at the end of this piece (which is what I normally like to give to my posts on here). I’m just trying to process it all. As I sit in at the airport gate waiting for my delayed flight to the Bay Area so that I can teach art to youth over the next 5 weeks, I am feeling the shifts of the current, both within my personal life and beyond myself. Here I am at the intersection of art, living, healing, career, colonization, trauma, joy, anxiety, hope… It’s one cluttered intersection of feeling and thought.

I guess all I can say is if you feel like life has you pinned down, forcing you into a straight jacket, cornering you, trying to close off your options, I get that. I keep pulling the surrender card (Yemoja). I’m still not sure what that means, what it looks like, how to embody it so that it doesn’t mean to give up. I am taking a lot of deep breaths these days, trying to do my best, trying to help when I can, reminding myself that everything passes, that there is always work to do, and I am alive, here&now, living all the good and the bad. I try to be thankful as much as possible, because I have certain privileges that others don’t and my basic needs are met (and unfortunately there are many who can’t say that). I also have better ways to spend my time, rather than planning a pity party. There is just me right now, riding the waves, figuring things out and pressing on, just like everyone else.

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