Women’s March on Washington D.C. (Chicago Version)

Being part of this epic movement of women and people across the world marching to battle racism, hatred, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia, I felt energized. Like in the past, I’ve felt united with my people, however this massive event makes the other protests look small. I saw people of all ages walking, chanting, singing some Aretha Franklin songs and capturing the moment. Of course, though, the signs were the best. We saw Carrie Fisher make an appearance, men reminding everyone that they can be feminists, too and of course the epic Shepard Fairey posters that came in every size.

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Sometimes You Need to Get Away

And within that cycle there are neither winners nor losers; there are only stages that must be gone through. When the human heart understands this, it is free and able to accept difficult times without being deceived by moments of glory. -Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to up and go. Just leave. Within two days, I had decided to unplug, head up north to a neighboring state and simmer for a weekend. I called in the personal retreat; the first step to collecting myself in order to make myself better for the next few stages of my life.

It had been a while– a long while– since I considered what I wanted out of my life and particularly next steps. For some time, I had taken opportunities set before me and, although they were all fantastic opportunities that I didn’t snooze on, I had also come to realize that they weren’t feeding my passions. I was good at what I was doing and good and taking on those opportunities, however my “passion” or whatever might have been driving me, was dwindling.

I’m a creative person. Although I’m not a visual artists, an actor or a poet (anymore), I’m still a writer, musician and supporter of the arts and what it means to different people, especially people like me. We creatives like to hide out as 9-5ers; as people who try to fit in but realize that any type of limitations bring inhibitions and the next thing you know, we’re unhappy. Some of us, however, find a balance and we are able to keep the monotony of our “real” life in a place that allows our creative side to thrive.

For those of you who know me, you know I’ve collaboratively put together an artistic collective called the EXPO Collective, catering to the support and resourcefulness of artists. Thus far, we have had the opportunity to exhibit four times and have garnered some much needed attention from a variety of organizations. I realized that this was my passion when I was hiding out in Michigan that weekend. I realized that building something for communal goodness was what I wanted to do and have always wanted to do.

This put me at ease in a comfortable way. I realized I was doing something good and EXPO had started running itself with not so much as a shove from the rest of us. It was my opportunity to revive my passion and remember what it was like to do things that I loved. Not very many people had that. Others who I knew very well were stuck in the monotonous drone of their lives, with out so much as a spark of passion, ambition, life. It was sad. I didn’t want to turn into that, no matter how nice it was to pay the bills.

The fact that I had worked for myself a few years ago, helped me to see that I could make it. I could live on almost nothing and survive. With that test at a young age, I knew that it wasn’t beyond my realm of possibilities to do it once more in a smarter way to eventually make it work.

Being in that Michigan hotel room made me write. I wrote for some time about what was bothering me, what was on my mind and what it was I really wanted all of which culminated into the idea that I was powerful enough and strong enough to pick myself up and keep going forward no matter how messed up things could be. I was fighting a really deep bout of anxiety. It wasn’t exactly depression, but it was this horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t let me settle or eat. It was awful. There was also a mixture of depressive traits of not wanting to do much, sleeping a lot and staying in the bed. The only thing I had to really do was to get out and get away.

I disconnected from everyone; had to reevaluate a relationship that I was in and I had to understand where I stood on a professional and personal level. While out there, I also realized that I really wanted to have a family. Yes, that’s right– children and everything. It took a long time for me to finally admit to myself that I wanted that. For the longest time, while in school, while deciding what I was going to do with my life, I had always felt that I could do things on my own and without the distraction of having kids. I was going to travel the world, do excellent work that not only helped me but a community of people and I was going to live richly based on the pure idea of giving of myself for the benefits of others.

But while I thought about it more and more, I knew that I wanted to find someone who shared the same ambitions as I as well as someone with whom I could build a family and a stable support system at home. My partner would not be upset nor intimidated by my drive, he would support and be on par with his own drive and we would have children to add to the story of our lives. I couldn’t ask for a more in-your-face bout of clarity that it hit my like a Pacific Ocean wave. I cried. I sat and I cried hard. I really wanted it, but I also wasn’t going to settle for it.

I walked by Lake Michigan– the other side– drove around the small town of St. Joseph and into South Haven, went to the beach and read a magazine. Yes, a whole magazine because I could. I also reread one of Paulo Coelho’s books and realized just how much I already knew about the divine and the universe and the way I should be living my life. It was a positive reinforcement and confidence booster, knowing that my life was still going in the right direction regardless of the hardships I had faced in recent situations.

Everything in life is meant to make you stronger. Things are there so that you learn from them and move on. Life only goes in one direction and that’s forward. Unfortunately, there’s no pause, stop, rewind or fast forward. We think that we may be the first to ever go through our situations but in fact that is a blatant lie. Plenty have dealt with the same issues that we go through now and plenty more will follow in our footsteps. We have to remember that we’re not alone, that life is short and we have to make the best of our situations.

If that means getting away for a bit– go. I can tell you that the money and time I spent away from everyone and completely alone was probably one of the best investments that I could make for myself. Self-reflection and reevaluation of life’s positions is important not just when things are going bad, but when things are going really well, too. However, when you feel it, you feel it. It’s a journey; make the most of it.

 

Back stabbed by inspiration

He tapped the pencil against the empty coffee mug. The one his sister gave him from a trip to Puerto Rico with her husband. It was blue and chipped on one side. Perfect, he thought when he chipped it. As a right-handed artist, he always grabbed his coffee mug with his left hand while sketching. The chip was strategically placed on the opposite side of where his lips sipped. The image of the orange sunset stared at him as he raised the mug of black and terribly sweet coffee for an added boost of inspiration. Yet, it didn’t come. The inspiration didn’t magically appear as it had so many times before.

bluemug It was easy to be inspired. For him, walking to the grocery store, watching a movie or hearing a song added elements to half-cooked concoctions of art in his mind. Once he realized what was missing, the ability to paint, sketch and create came without effort. This is why he loved his art.

He got up from his desk to close the window. It was starting to get cold outside. The tall, athletically built man always looked capable of so much and few pinned him for artistic quality until they found him behind a brush. He walked around his small apartment, pulled out the silver-colored hair tie and shook his head. “C’mon, now. You got this.”

There wasn’t a deadline besides his desire to create. Tonight, though, tonight this was going to be a little more difficult than other pieces made during the bewitching hour. Then a song started. “Oh, God it’s raining, but I’m not complaining, it’s filling me up with new life…”

Magic. His pencil stood on its lead tip and he watched it dance in front of him on a blank sheet of thick sketching paper. It danced to the beat of the heavily syncopated synth-pop rhythms of the ‘80s. What he thought, emerged on the sketch pad and without touching the dancing pencil, he felt the bumps and grooves of the tiny fibers that made up his canvas for the night. “The stars in the sky bring tears to my eyes. They’re lighting my way tonight…”

The intricacies of the pencil on the tablet formed details he wasn’t even focused on creating yet. His mind was not set on the tiny pieces, though the black lead took its own initiative to create the shapes he saw. He felt the loss of control. “The moon is shining in the sky, reminding me of so many other nights, but not like tonight…”

The song ended. The pencil stopped its swirling dance. He stared at what he created. He turned the pencil upside down and erased a few errors his eyes caught. The creation was not what he was thinking about. The shading, the outline, the details were all wrong. He had been back-stabbed by his inspiration.

He tied his hair back in a tight pony-tail at the nape of his neck. He had no words for what he felt.

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dreamstime.com

Hours had passed without a creative thought in his mind and when it finally happened, it disappointed him. He grabbed the blue mug with his right hand, the chip on the side where he would drink from. From the corner of his kitchen, he grabbed a box of sugar cubes and threw eight in his mug. The ninth he tossed in the back of his mouth, the corners and edges cut into the roof of his mouth as he begins to suck on the cube. “You’re going to rot your teeth,” his mom would tell him when she saw him sneak a cube on his way out to skateboard. The crystals boosted his ambition, but somehow, it didn’t work tonight.

He poured the coffee in the mug over the sugar slowly in order to watch them melt into the black mud, drowning with his incapacitated inspiration.