Orientation for the Creative Community Leadership Institute was last night at Intermedia Arts. Intermedia is a creative space that already has a cherished place in my heart: exhibiting there, house managing for Fringe Festival, seeing great shows and events, etc. Joining a circle of artists and community organizers there to kick off 4 months of this intensive learning community centered around arts as a social change agent feels so natural. I was nervous, and haven’t slept well all week in anticipation, but I was so happy and grateful to be able to be there, be present, and start the process with an engaging, genuine, caring group of people (see all our bios and happy mugs here).
It was also the second time that I’ve found myself at Intermedia sitting next to a fellow Carleton grad without realizing it right away. (I ended up next to Anna Minkina purely coincidentally at a Give & Take event once). I’m honestly not sure whether Lucas Koski looked familiar to me yesterday due to graduating from the same class almost 8 years ago, or whether I recognize him more recently from his work with Bedlam Theatre. Probably some of both. Anyway, it was a sweet bonus discovery. I know Amanda Lovelee as well through Irrigate events; the rest of the faces are fresh yet vaguely familiar. Several people commented on the feeling that we all probably have only two degrees of separation; someone said she could see “constellations of connection” forming already. The experience faculty member Bill Cleveland shared with us about working within the California corrections system resonated with my own background working in chemical dependency, and over dinner he told me his great great (or great great great?) grandfather was a founder of Washington State University, so he has a heritage and familiarity with the Palouse culture and landscape where I did most of my “growing up.” With Bill plus a fellow Carl and Irrigate artist there, it is reassuring to feel like there are people in the circle who “get me” from various angles mixed in with plenty of other voices who will be new, challenging and surprising.
I have an inkling this is exactly what I need right now. Over the past year or so I have noticed myself shifting from an enthusiastic, outgoing mindset into one that is a bit more guarded, pensive, sometimes quite pessimistic. I am no longer as excited to meet new people. I feel stretched too thin with too many expectations coming at me from every direction, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve evolved into what I actually want to be doing and being, so there is an instinct to retract away from the world. I’m sure that upheavals at my old job combined with excess baggage from my divorce the previous year are a main cause of that shift. If you want to read a really personal piece I wrote about those two things, you can find it on the Clever Kate blog as a guest post.
There are a lot of benefits to taking time to rest and heal, and you can’t blame yourself too much when it is -16 degree windchill outside, AND I suppose since I’m 30 now I could whine about how I’m “getting old,” but for the most part that hermit instinct is not doing me much good. I feel like I am outgrowing it again just as I have had to shed an earlier version of it before. I suppose it is a cycle that we go through on and off throughout life, two steps forward and one step back. After pushing the “eject” button on an unhealthy marriage I pledged to jump into the life I want to live, and kind of toppled into a whole new reality, so now I’m at another layer of the feeling-stuck-onion. I need to stop letting shyness and uncertainty paralyze me, and start reaching out more. Experiment. The Institute is giving me a priceless opportunity to do that in a safe, close-knit cohort for five months, and I plan to treasure the time and use it as the next step in the process of, essentially, renewing my faith in humanity.
I’ve also recently noticed that the never-quite-satisfied feeling I struggle with comes from an intense desire to make up for lost time. Thank you to those who have already reassured me that the years and events that took me to what felt like the “wrong path” were not actually wasted at all. I am trying to remind myself of that frequently, and hope that this experience of fellowship with other people juggling similar multidimensional personal and career roles will give me courage and vision to understand how and why I am made up of the pieces that I am, and why those pieces have been created in a specific fashion in order to get me where I’m going. After the first night I feel energized, and hopeful I’m on a path to being more grounded. Grounded in my own beliefs, perspective, experience, and strengths.
Something tells me I’m going to end up writing a lot. Some of it might come out too wordy and sound a bit cheesy. I don’t plan on apologizing for that. You are invited to grab some crackers and wine, and come along for the ride.