Transitions can be rough.
Growth can be difficult.
Choosing can be painful.
Change can seem impossible.
These things are true for everyone at some point -- but possibly experienced more acutely (or at least more often) by those of us who choose to carve out our own career paths, who constantly take creative risks, who are always seeking, who know that there’s gotta be more to it.
I’m writing this from inside an airstream trailer-turned computer lab, inside a giant warehouse in an industrial neighborhood in Northeast Portland. It is here that I am pursuing my MFA in Applied Craft + Design. It is here that I am going to become a master. Of something.
One year ago, I uprooted my life and moved to Portland for two reasons: 1) love and 2) this program. In that order. I felt that I needed more than one good reason to leave the life I had created, the community I had built and the town that had held me and supported me for so long. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
When I look back now, I realize why people were questioning my sanity. I had gone from pretty shallow and familiar waters into the very deepest, darkest end -- I went from maintaining a small business down the street to managing a staff of people from 400 miles away. I went from attending the occasional macrame or soap-making workshop to an intense MFA program. I went from a week-on/week-off co-parenting schedule to full time mom. All of my bills doubled. I went from being in a long distance relationship to having a blended family and living together in very close quarters (one bathroom, six people, you do the math). I went from a life where I had time to go to a yoga class every day to barely having time to eat.
The work I began doing in school became very much about the challenges I was facing: knowing that I had some hard choices to make, knowing I was in the deep end. One of the first things I learned (like really learned) was that I didn’t necessarily want to make things for a living anymore (even though I totally still do) which was a strange realization to have in an applied craft program -- where making a living by making objects is the whole point. If you are reading this you probably already know this, but the endless cycle of making and selling can be pretty tedious. I began seeing a future where that neverending make/sell loop just continued to spiral, and I began seeing a future in which there were just too many amazing beautiful perfect things (and horrible hideous ones) in the world. I began to see that my contribution to this producer/consumer culture was more about my needs than the needs of my customers. As I woke up to this, my desire for community began to take precedence over my desire for gilded antlers. My desire for truth began to take precedence over my desire for stuff. My desire for freedom began to take precedence over my desire for control.
Community, truth and freedom. Those things seem like such BIG LOFTY IDEALS. But you know what? They're not. Those things are 100% attainable, but you first have to say out loud that you want them. Then you have to do the fucking work. For me right now, community, truth and freedom look like a big fat HUSTLE.
Remember the movie "Hustle and Flow"? The one about how hard it was out there for a pimp? It's a great movie. See it if you haven't. As a privileged white person, I don't claim to understand how hard it was out there. But as a person who understands the world through metaphor and story, I totally DO understand how hard it was out there. And how important it is to both hustle and flow. It’s up there with being both free AND responsible. It’s like in yoga when you have to be both soft AND strong. It’s about unceremoniously pushing yourself in a specified direction (the hustle) while simultaneously moving along in a steady and continuous stream (the flow). It’s about knowing what you want, but not really knowing how you’re going to get it. It’s about doing the work as the work comes, it’s about riding currents as the currents come.