Whoops, that last post got a little bit away from me. But I think it sets the scene on why my trip to New York this time was so important to me, when other times I leave feeling nothing was accomplished and a little bit depressed.
My visit was a much needed break from my recent quest to be Super Serious. I have been trying so hard lately to Figure It Out that life sometimes feels like a chore instead of an adventure. The two of us stayed up late talking about art for the sake of art. Expression with no expectation of meaning or gain.
Shannon and I graduated from the same creative writing program, and for various reasons, we each let life lead us down a different path. I got a Super Serious job at a law firm and she moved to Florida and started a family. During the few years after college, we both dabbled with writing blogs and trying to still be creative while leading lives filled with other obligations. Mine didn’t amount to much, but she gained some success, and had built a following of other like-minded creative moms. While she no longer continues that blog, she is now an ambitious student at SVA’s graduate program in Visual Narrative. She showed me her works in progress, and I read her stories while we lounged in her adorable AirBNB apartment. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly jealous of the life she was living – however temporary it may be.
I am the type of person who loses interest in something if I discover I am no good at it. It is what separates a hobbyist from an artist – I hate to practice. I like to pick something up, be brilliant, and wow the crowd. (It does not happen often, if you are wondering.) False starts on short stories, novels, art projects, sewing projects, …. you name it, I’ve tried it, and given up. If I can’t be absolutely EXECLLENT, I don’t want to waste my time. It makes me sad to think of all the projects I’ve started that had potential, if only I’d put in the work. I am incapable of being proud of something that isn’t perfect.
Anyway, that Saturday we visited the Met Bruer to see the Diane Arbus exhibit, and as we wove through the columns of photos, Shannon geeked out over one of her favorite artists. Later, we stopped into an independent book store in Fort Greene, and she picked up books left and right to tell me why it was an amazing, influential work. She commented, when I had little to offer, “You don’t read much anymore, do you?”. It struck me that the voracious appetite I once had was still there lingering within me, but somehow something I had learned to justify ignoring. I have a habit of buying books in a moment of pure excitement and inspiration and then putting them on the shelf to continue on my daily life. It is not how I used to be, but without anyone around who knew the old me and call me back to it, I let it slide.
Sometimes it takes visiting an old friend to make you realize that you’re still the same person you thought you were, and that the things that used to be important still very much matter. That part of me was lying dormant, or maybe just needed coaxing to come alive again. I think that’s ok. I’m not that old, but I’ve lived many different lives that all seem so disjointed at times. Like a series of disconnected phases – states of being that come with their own cast of characters. That weekend I got to reconnect with the Art-School-Writer version of myself and it was wonderful to see her again. I often recall Super-Stressed-Paralegal me, as well as Super-Stressed-Grad-School me, because the people from those phases in my life are still around. It was a treat to visit Shannon in New York, and see the art she is making, and be reminded that I used to (and maybe still do, to a certain degree) have a certain number of undefined creative aspirations.
I don’t hold on to many people, but the ones I do are the ones who matter to me. I’m holding on to them, and also to the person they bring out in me. Maybe it’s selfish, but it takes two to make a friendship, and so who I am when I’m with a person determines if I want to remain in the relationship. It’s been hard as I get older, making conscious decisions to walk away from friends if I don’t feel good about my role when I’m with them. But I don’t intend it to hurt. It’s more like shedding a skin so that I can keep growing.
New York is like that, too. Every time I visit, I’m filled with emotions that confuse me and make me feel bad. But whether I like it or not, my past lives there, and so I will continue to return. I will need to learn to remember the things I used to do and the dreams I used to have without feeling sad.