I keep finding myself listening to a similar conversation with friends. Although there are different people and situations, I keep sensing a fear to admit when they find themselves in the wrong place. They’re in the wrong job and pretending it’s the right fit because they invested so much time and money into their study. They’re in the wrong relationship but convinced he’s going to change or she just needs to put in more effort. They’re using all the wrong things to numb their pain, thinking they’re fine because it makes them happier. They’re pretending to believe something they no longer believe because they don’t want to have an identity crisis. The list could go on.
I sense the fear of admission because I recognize it in myself. I’ve been there. I admit that I could be projecting, but I don’t think that’s what this is.
This is what I know it to be:
Deep down, from your inner most being there is a protest.
“I was not meant for this. This isn’t right.”
But you smother the protest for weeks, months, years. The protest dies, but resurrects itself the next time something happens that isn’t right. Why don’t you listen? Why do you make excuses? Why do you keep going?
Because there aren’t other options. There are only things tying you down. There is no green grass on the other side that you can see from where you’re standing. You don’t know exactly how you arrived here in the first place, but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out. You don’t have a plan or an alternative. So, you keep putting up with what doesn’t feel right because even though it might not be ideal, it’s what you have. There’s always hope, right? Always potential. It would be stupid to surrender a perfectly fine or at least comfortably familiar job/life/relationship/etc. and instead hurl yourself into a complete mystery.
Look, by all means, give this all you’ve got. Please keep going as long as you possibly can. Exhaust all your resources. Use up every last drop of determination and optimism you can muster.
But know this: there is something holy and relieving about surrendering to the inner protest of, “This isn’t right.”
There is something that happens in a person when they admit the fear and are brave enough to go, “I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like, but I know it’s not this. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if it’s going to be worse or better. All I know is that where I’m standing now isn’t right, so I’m going to move.”
This is how life changes. This is how you find your sanctuary. The choices made from that place of, “I don’t know, but not this” are terrifying. But if that inner protest begins to play like a broken record, LISTEN. Be brave. Move. Because the next step might feel worse at first. In fact, expect that it will. But at least it won’t be “this”…whatever your “this” is.
The solution to fear is not creating security, it is having courage.
One. I’ve been doing my graduate placement at Inverleith House Gallery, which is a small contemporary art gallery located inside of The Royal Botanic Gardens (which as Spring approaches, I get continually more stoked about). I am currently conducting research into developing a patron funding scheme for the gallery, which has been a great experience so far and reminds me how small and networked the art world is. I find it really unique that this gallery is part of, yet still separate from the gardens. They often try to coordinate exhibitions that somehow relate to the nature around them, but I’ve had really interesting conversations with the staff around the struggle of being a house of contemporary visual art in the midst of botanical science, and the difficulty of communicating to visitors the correlation between the two. You’d be amazed at how irate people can be when they don’t “get” art.
Two. I’ve accepted a summer marketing and development internship with Art in Healthcare! AiH has a collection of 1400 contemporary artworks and use that collection to do site-specific commissions and rentals within the healthcare sector. They also have outreach programming where professional artists deliver workshops in community settings/care environments and put on an annual exhibition of the art created. I am really, reallllly excited about this opportunity, which perfectly blends my visual art/art therapy/CNA/hospital work background with what I am learning right now. Plus, the office is in an amazing community arts centre that has the kind of natural lighting that makes an artist go weak in the knees. There’s also a random, giant, painted cow statue when you first walk in…which made me feel right at home. Hey, Iowa. Anyway, I will be tailoring my dissertation around the work I do for AiH and this will allow me to stay in Edinburgh and work for the art festivals in August, too! Woot, woot. Now I just need to find someplace affordable to live…ha…ha.
Three. Now that graduate placements are in full swing, I have been reaping the benefits of my classmates’ connections and access to comp tickets. This week Katie and I got killer seats for Dirty Dancing at the Edinburgh Playhouse. It was pretty awful (imagine lots of really bad visual effect screens and dancers who can’t act) so I’m glad we didn’t pay to go see it. But what the show lacked, the audience made up for in entertainment. SO many drunk middle-aged women who cheered and whistled whenever Johnny took his shirt off and literally got up out of their seats to dance during the final performance. And then I got to see The Scottish Chamber Orchestra at Queen’s Hall. A very different experience/audience spirit, but my first time at an orchestral performance. And it felt so foreign to just sit and listen to music. To watch music. With no distractions. It was a beautiful thing.
Four. If you’ve read to this point and/or follow me on social media, it probably appears like everything is beautifully amazing, falling together, and that I’m having the time of my life. Sometimes that is true and I want to pinch myself because I can hardly believe this is my life right now. But if I stop to think about everything that has happened since this time last year, I get this sensation of being in a tornado and I panic. Honestly, not a day goes by when I don’t feel sad and pissed off. Everyone around me tells me how well I’m handling everything, how they never have to worry about me, how balanced I am, etc. But for some reason, I hate hearing that. I find myself wishing I could easily slip into self-destruction mode and that I would do something really stupid because I honestly want to, I feel like it and I’m convinced that I have a reason/excuse/justification to. I play out all these scenarios in my mind and then I never do it. I can never bring myself to follow through with any of them. And yes, yes, I realize that being annoyed by the strength of your own conscience sounds pretty insane. So, I’ll just accept being a balanced-insane-person and bring it back to the point I wanted to make…which was that what gets shared is hearts and rainbows, because I cling to those life-giving moments to make the life-draining ones seem fewer and farther apart. But what pushes me to be better and feel better are the sweet people in my life who send me mail, take me to brunch, and join me in sporadic kitchen dancing (three things that are pretty much keys to my heart).
Five. Since I haven’t had time for all the hiking I had dreamed I would be doing in Scotland, taking walks along the seaside has been my substitute. My head feels clearer when I’m near the water. The tide is so low right now that you can see ridiculously random items that have washed up on shore. Treasure hunt! Every few steps, I see something that makes me go…HOW DID YOU GET HERE?! Like, a hot water bottle with a pot leaf imprint or a pink ceramic frog. I also love how many textures there are on the beach and turning over rocks to find teeny tiny creatures. Six. I planned little summertime spiritual pilgrimage to the island of Iona, where the ecumenical Iona community has three residential centres. People from different backgrounds and parts of the world live and work together in community, putting on a variety of week-long programs and retreats centred around peacemaking, interfaith dialogue, social justice and the environment. Taking this trip is important to me because my faith has stretched and grown in new ways since I came here. I have been learning that there are there are ways God cannot grow you and there are things he cannot reveal to you unless you are, or willing to be, alone and in a place of isolation. I’ve been really challenging myself to face those places. To know my way around them. To consciously choose not to use crutches, but to keep walking even though things are broken and strained. To figure out what I’m afraid of. What I want. What I don’t want. To unclench my fists. To give up what is not mine to hold. And for me, there has been a level of honesty, a depth of relationship, and a drive to overcome my shit that I haven’t experienced until here and now. Seven. On top of work, placement, and classes…here’s what I need to accomplish in the coming weeks:
March 12: Fundraising/Sponsorship application pack