To Go or Not to Go? (That Was the Question.)

Applying gilding base to an illuminated deerskin vellum project during my
participation in  "Illuminated Letters 2013," a calligraphic performance.
The metallic area is covered in 22K Moon Gold leaf.
The central word is 'perspective.'
We are constantly defined by what we do, what we have done, and who others perceive us to be as our society, most of humanity really, revels in shoving us into narrowly defined boxes that fit other people's worldviews. The problem is that all that shoving into boxes isn't just annoying and frequently unkind; it's almost always wildly inaccurate. That's why I despise so called elevator speaches even as I constantly strive to perfect my own. Nothing that can be said about my work in 10 seconds could even begin to provide others with enough information to form intelligent questions, let alone define it or me.

I recently missed my high school reunion - one of those reunions, the ones with a zero at the end - and an oportunity to describe, define, and defend what I do to people who will judge and not really have a clue.

Since at least the 1950s American culture has been obsessed with high school, the era of the teen, what it's supposed to be culturally and formatively, and the hard cold reality of the inherent awkwardness and frequent cruelty. I always believed high school was a complete waste of time with a very few exceptional moments. Knowing so many home and unschooled kids who learn, love, and flourish outside the American cultural norm, I am proved right. Unfortunately being right often leaves me depressed over the majority of a six year period in which my time and brains were dominated and wasted on memorization and tedium. If I had that big chunk of time now...

When I graduated, I didn't so much finish with a piece of paper (that I was paranoid wan't signed, legitimate, or really even inside the cover until I looked) as I was released from a prison that in no way ever fit my crime of being a creative, forward thinking adolescent. I escaped the confines, and eventually the small town and reveled in the anonimity and endless options of a big city. Instead of being defined as a nobody, the daughter of somebody, a kid who never belonged, I embraced being no one, a person whose outcome others could not determine by those narrow boxes. 

Now I live an odd juxtaposition of being very high profile in my field, while juggling all the less glamorous hats that come with being an artist, an entrepreneur, and a mom. There just isn't any one box deep enough to hold me.

Reunions, are like large family functions, they ask us to reconcile who we are with who others believe us to be or to have been in the past. I repeatedly asked myself which is the more noble choice, the more courageous: to walk back into the space of one's past, head high, knowing I am not, never was, who and how others defined me or walk away, blow the whole thing off and do something more peaceful and enjoyable that weekend, knowing that none of that past can ever matter again. WWHD? (What would Hamlet do?)

There are people I'd love to have seen, people I lost touch with, but I didn't want to endure remembering all the time I was truly miserable, bored out of my mind, watching the clock for the end of the school day furlogh. 

In the end I made peace with the reality of iCal. Between teaching 2 workshops, travling to the SNAG conference in Minneapolis, and finishing new artwork in time for the Mother's Day crunch, adding one more trip would have been too much additional stress even if I did have the perfect dress. To the class of '84, may you find happiness for being who you truly are.

1 comment:

John said...

I just ran across a facebook group focused on the graduates of my high school from my years there(70s). Also a misfit, the morning after the last day of classes, I left home for keeps and migrated to the big city - like you, a prisoner freed and yet now I wonder about those years and how they shaped me. I am considering joining that FB group, not to reconnect with long lost strangers, but to help identify who I was then because he's a boy I wouldn't recognize anymore.