You always want to write yourself as a good character. We always want to be the good guy, someone people empathize with. I've been reading a book of Japanese fairy tales to my son the past couple days and it has me questioning the idea of good people. We assume that if we are good people that people will treat us the way we should be treated, we will be addressed equivocally, our deeds will be remembered with satisfaction, but, as in these Japanese fairy tales, however, what if this just isn't true? What if it's a misconception that people who are by and large good people are actually not doing enough, or what if without the awareness of their acts both good and bad they are not completely whole?
I struggle with this idea and many other smaller thoughts that may be my undoing, causing a lack in motivation, or may be conversely, my strength, providing my work, love, and character with that necessary depth to be whole. Still, I struggle with empathy. I get lost in the trappings of my work, the idea that I must keep working, solving my own life's mysteries, creating because creating is what brings me energy and peace. I made a promise to myself that I would work hard enough to get to that elusive somewhere with my art. I set the sights at where certain artists, like Jeff Soto and Barry McGee were showing and creating, determining that I needed to get there in order to be successful. For about a dozen years I've labored at this. I've created a formidable body of work, but no piece of which has brought me the stardom or notoriety that either of these heroes have attained.
Along the way I've married and had a beautiful son. I've stopped cooking in restaurants and am now an adjunct faculty member, teaching art to people in their late teens and early twenties. I have a comfortable studio and a comfortable home. I can create comfortably every day of the week.
It doesn't always make me happy though. I long for so many things I can't have. I long for places where I've felt that I was more creative. I long for better galleries, better artist friends, more stimulating conversation and a deeper and more whole understanding of what it is that I do. If I could just have a deeper understanding of what it is that I am doing, maybe I could focus, feel good about the course that I am on, be validated, both in the creative work that I do and the qualities that I have to offer at my workplace. But the truth of the matter is that beyond receiving a raise, or a newer
shinier teaching position with a tenure track and benefits, there is little validation that I can receive that will affect my life and the life of my family.
Recently, I've felt like maybe I've been the bad guy in my own story. I've felt short with my family and with my work. I went through a month long period where I was searching for new opportunities, new jobs, gallery shows, creative outlets of any kind. I wanted to live life filled to the gills with my art again, but it never occurred to me until I was reading fairy tales to my child that maybe my cup was full and that's why I'm having trouble pouring more into it.
I've created so much in the past two months and I am truly overwhelmed by the experience. My work has grown, but I'm now at that stage where I need to let the soul grow into that space that the work has created. Yesterday, I cleaned my studio again. I consider it the rebirth, just in time for the winter, a season of rumination and creation. Winter always provides me with that opportunity to go slow and reflect. I hope it's long and cold, because I will be inside filled with the warmth of my family's love, the joy of my studies, and the satisfaction of my work.