On a happy Thursday morning, I found myself at the School of Arts & Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in my hometown of San Jose. I was surrounded by artists, proud of myself for having invested the time to weave more energy into a long-term vision for myself. This life of sacrifice for the greater good with glitter spurts of fulfillment has me feeling like I’ve been knocking on the wrong doors. After my epiphany of closed doors still being doors (see here), I felt like I needed to regroup, reground, rejuvenate, revamp, etc. My intent was to take as much inspiration as I could from this MALI Art/Life Forum, highlighting how local arts professionals can go from “Surviving to Thriving,” in order to see if I was ready to fully take the leap into the hazy abyss of which the only certainty I can decipher is my love of creating.
While there, I let myself ramble that if left to my own devices, I would make books – all kinds of books: novels, children’s books, comic books, coloring books, all of the books. I’ve said this before, of course, but I’ve always hesitated to fully own it. Preferring, out of fear, to leave that part of me tucked away and safe – giving a glimpse of it here and there, testing the waters but never truly taking the leap.
Those things that are your deepest desires are always the scariest to take the leap for. Somebody once described it as an abyss in the positive sense – an abyss in which you find an endless fulfillment, and yet, the uncertainty of that abyss leaves us diving into what is safe, familiar, secure, and sometimes practical. You can take the leap into that safety and practicality in seemingly bold moves because failure in those areas won’t be as heartbreaking as the failure in going after what is truly in your “heart of hearts,” or at least that is what we’ve been lead to believe. So, the majority of us find contentment while sacrificing fulfillment. We settle for believing that our passions are hobbies, accessible as a reward for completing the “necessary” work of putting food on our tables. But, what about feeding our souls?
Back to the art life forum: “Prince is dead.”
Me: “What?” [Insert dramatic sound of a record scratching to an abrupt halt here] because that is what it felt like in the moment.
“Prince is dead.”
“No. No, no. You’ve got to check Snopes or something. I don’t believe it.”
“It’s coming from CNN.”
This was followed by a moment of silence in a room full of artists. In that moment of silence, I felt the urgency of embarking on that abyss. Beyond being a lifelong Prince fan, there’s something about death in your 50s that streamlines me toward cutting through layers of bullcrap.
I held it together for the rest of the event, which was downright sparkly throughout, and while I had conversation after conversation with beautiful people, I kept thinking about how Prince was constantly creating. Something about how he lived his life just felt like a challenge to embark on that abyss. I cried myself home because I’m a softy like that, and also because chapters of my life seemed to be on replay with “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain” playing on every station.
I had already spent some time incubating, while making sense of my life and nursing a disappointment delivered by way of the “practical” route, so I can guarantee that I was on all the feels. I also knew I had to step up my accountability game – to myself. Prince would not be down with me playing someone else’s game, and to be real, I wasn’t down with it either.
After having a deep conversation with one of the comadres, I knew I was not alone in my sense of urgency to be true to my gifts. So, I knew I had some work to do, but as much as I talk a good game, I’m a self-doubt junkie. I’ve gotten a glimpse of the glitters and I’m a believer, but I’m also my toughest critic and my worst overthinking enemy. I pretty much write all of this stuff to pull myself through because I’m well aware I will circle back to that doubt.
I let myself incubate some more by watching video after video of Prince talking about his music, his story, his process, and his thoughts on owning your work. I found inspiration after inspiration in how he talked about his work and in his snarky, diva, toting, smart-sassing genius way of being. And with every interview, I recovered a piece of myself and decided to take that plunge.
I started compiling drawings created in the past 2 years into a coloring book, and I came up with this:
Complete with about 50 designs. I realized that I was talking to myself by way of my drawings, and in a way I felt like I could see myself in a way that I hadn’t quite bothered to look before. Then, of course, I started to overthink it, and I listened to more of Prince to pull me through the doubt. I decided that there was something appealing about the risk of owning your work past the point of production. I felt even more solid in every one of my choices leading to the final product.
I kept drawing and my list of ideas started growing as if I had somehow unblocked myself. Two weeks later, I came up with this:
To be clear, there was a learning curve on how to convert my images into workable digital files, and the process can be tedious because I prefer to do things the hard way. That is counteracted by my task obsession and misguided work ethic. Nonetheless, I enjoy every minute of it. I can fall asleep with my drawing tablet or sketch pad in my lap and it’s the first thing I think of when I wake up – no joke.
Even so, full on imposter syndrome hit me hard, filling me with a heap of doubts. Mind you, it’s not like I had abandoned my job and said, “Yes, and now I shall create all the books and finish all of the stories” (because yo, I have a grip of them started with pages and pages actually written). I had simply made a commitment to put my energy there and be less inclined to let my self-defined priorities be skewed by other folks’ perceptions and projections of me and what I “should” be doing. Plus I like teaching and don’t mind getting paid for it. It’s just not what my whole life is about – more like it’s a piece of my puzzle of wholeness that will feel incomplete on its own.
So pity party episode 1,999 in full effect even though my books were generating excitement and decent sales and my parents and kids and husband and friends were super proud. On top of that I was inspired by the spinoff project that came out of me finishing this commissioned artwork (bigger project in the works):
Somehow, all of that seemed so temporary. I mean down to the, “Oh my gawd, I’m going to run out of things to draw and I have nothing left to write” (and yes, I realize that sounds silly), and then the comadre tags me in this super brief video link to Prince accepting an award, and I hear “Let’s take a moment and look at yourselves. There’s nothing minor about you” (https://vid.me/mCjT). Yes! Thank you Prince. I knew that and yet, I let myself get taken by the behemoth of a shadow beast imposing on my sparkle.
Meanwhile, I am finalizing details for the 3rd one (inspired by the 2nd one):
Pity party over. Self-doubt, excuse me while I take a dip into the abyss. He ends the speech with, “Imagine what we’ll all be like in our own game” (https://vid.me/mCjT). I hear you Prince! I hear you.
And I’ll keep listening because this is my game, and I am the marker and maker of my own success.
So, I’ll leave you with that, and in the words of Prince . . .
“Peace and be wild.”