I did everything backwards. From the beginning of my life I felt like a lost soul. I had such deep struggles finding my path, fighting against my nature, depression, anxiety, self sabotage, pain. It always felt as if I was living in someone else’s body, as if I had begun the race of my life 12 seconds behind everyone else – and there was no way for me to catch up. Living life as if it were a work of art was a thing that I could never imagine was possible for myself. That was a luxury reserved for other people.
It wasn’t until I became a mom that I began to finally feel tethered to the earth. My existence felt validated and I connected with people and myself in a way I never had before. I do not recommend becoming a parent to find yourself – our first child was a big surprise – arriving a few years ahead of schedule but when it happened life began to come into focus. We faced this unexpected surprise with joy and enthusiasm. The art of my life up to that point had largely been crayola scribbles and uninspired melodies – with a few exceptions.
With the journey of motherhood and wifedom ahead of me my feet became bound to the earth like never before. I decided that I had to become about something. I had to have passions, create things, and help others because I wanted to lead by example. Thus began a race of making up for lost time when I had already always felt so far behind. I began the art of my life making choices that made sense to me. I’ve deviated from the norm, I’ve made unconventional choices, but I’ve always tried to be true to myself. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.
Throughout this process I have made a list of things to help reassure me that I’m on the right track, I require a lot of reassurance:
In order for a work of art to be considered “successful” it has to tell a story that resonates with an audience – not all audiences – but it has to find its people. Everything we do does not resonate with everyone – but it is important to those who get it. I try to remind myself that they are my champions.
An artist’s work often feels unfinished, unworthy, and uncertain. I try to remember that each creation does not rest alone – it is the sum total of a lifetime of work. Some things execute the way I intended and the outcome of others is surprising – some surprises are good, others not so much. Whatever comes from each endeavor is a lesson learned for the next one.
Each “mistake” adds depth, color, and significance – transforming every frightening swerve from the path – into an opportunity. If we don’t fight the, so-called mistakes, but follow them we may just find magic waiting. The art is to know the balance. In Jazz – we are open to what comes. The mistakes just become part of the song. Imagine being so deft and skilled in your craft that you are able to roll with any unexpected deviations from the melody and make it all sound as if you meant to do that all along.
Winston Churchill said “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” In art and in life and, maybe mostly in nonprofit leadership, it is essential to understand who we are and from where we have come. Yet, without a vision for the future and a passion for new ideas we cannot continue moving the world forward.
Something that I have struggled with as an artist and as a person is the idea of things being unfinished. I like to complete things, cross them off my “to do” list, and go on to the next task. However, the best, and most frustrating thing, about life is that it’s never finished – until it’s over. The Buddha taught, “Life is difficult, and it becomes more difficult when we struggle with it. There is no end to challenge. Not everything needs to get solved today.”
If there is anything I have taken away from this process it is that there are infinite possibilities for how to be in the world. I look out and see so many different people with unique experiences and perspectives.
Each one of us will go forth and the art of our lives will look very different but it will all be beautiful, meaningful, and continually evolving. The very greatest gift is that nothing is permanent and, if we allow it, everything can be Jazz.
I look forward to more along the journey of self-discovery. Thank you!