A Year of Yes, or 6 Things I Know

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A year and a half in to running Warehouse 4726, I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly it is that my husband and I are trying to do. We continue to push forward, and 2018 has become the year of always saying yes.

“Can you do this?”

Yes.

“Can you do that?”

Yes.

I feel like we’re walking in a large open field at night without a flashlight. I know we’re working toward something, and I believe we’re heading in the right direction, but how can we be sure? I think most people who are trying to build something, working toward some dream, must feel this way. You pick a direction and you head in that direction and along the way there are obstacles in the form of opportunities, and opportunities in the form of obstacles. They present themselves along the path: you fall into a ditch along the path and, discouraged, you wonder, “Is this what I really want to be doing. What is that I am trying to accomplish here?”

Then you go to bed and wake up in the morning, fresh and renewed, and head off in that same direction with the same fervor that you had the day before.

This has been my experience as I navigate this gig economy and try to develop a studio practice and community based arts organization. I have a full-time job that helps me grow as a professional and aligns with my personal values and mission of supporting members of the arts community. I have a studio practice where I’m making art. I have a company which supports two clients plus another company that my husband and I have formed, with a client there, too. It’s a lot to handle and it can get confusing.

I know what is important to me as an artist and a community builder / community connector. My entire adult life I have been a hub, a connector of people. I have worked with some masters in that field and I continue to surround myself with people that I can learn from; I make it a habit to listen to people smarter than me.

But then you look at people around you doing so much more and in ways that are so much more powerful, and you think, “Am I any good at this? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? What am I trying to accomplish?” Questioning yourself is part of the process.

Things that I know:

1. I am an artist.

2. I have a desire to connect people to build and strengthen my community.

3. For me, making art is not about selling art. It’s about the process of creativity and the freedom of expression that it provides me.

4. For me, showing art is not about selling art. It’s about the community and conversation that get built around exhibiting the work.

5. I like sharing my skills and knowledge with others to help them take the next steps toward professionalism and mastery. My skill level will not take them to the heights of their ability but direct them towards their own greatness beyond my limitations.

6. I have a lot to learn about everything.

Things I don’t know:

  1. What am I trying to manifest in my life?

2. Is this thing I’m working so diligently to create something that I monetize, or is it a non-profit endeavor?

3. What would an organization that used my skills and mastery look like? What what it offer?

4. How do the skills and abilities of my business partner and husband complement and reinforce the skills and knowledge that I already possess?

Every time I hear Seth Godin say, “Go make a ruckus,” I smile. I remind myself that I am moving toward something. But my “ruckus“ is quiet, behind the scenes. The “ruckus” is a form of support that I provide, and it is invisible. That makes it hard to build a business or an organization as today’s world requires flash, influence, and a lot of noise. Instead, I trust that the partnerships that I am developing, and have developed over the years, will continue to grow and create opportunities that will sustain me.

There are times when I host and promote an event and hope for quantity and I get a much smaller audience that I had wished for. That’s where the quality happens; small, curated conversations that inspire everyone who showed up. But I wonder if it’s enough to build with. And I get discouraged and question my abilities. I question my path, and I get lost in a field of my own darkness again, fumbling around looking for light.

I understand that all creatives face this challenge. Everyone talks about the imposter syndrome, the failure that comes with trying that leads to eventual success. Anyone trying to make anything that is important to them will have these questions, these hesitations. The trick is moving past them, moving through them. Learning from every experience without judgment of success or failure. Constantly asking yourself, “How can I make this better?”

I don’t have any answers this morning. I’m working through our Year of Yes. I’m working toward something that’s on the other side of the field, that’s going to lead to a mountain range that I’m going to have to navigate in the dark, without a flashlight. Nothing is easy.

I have friends who support me, I have a partner who believes in me. And I have a very fuzzy vision of what my life and mission could be. I haven’t had an “A-ha!” moment but a small, quiet, wondering (and wandering) that urges me to keep moving forward. I know there something that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I have all the tools, I have all the skills, I have a small community that supports me. I can’t help thinking all I need is that flashlight.

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