Time heals all grad school wounds: Part 1
Me and my Sketchbook, 2001, large scale poloraid, 24 x 20"
It all started with a simple article, one I didn't even read. I saw it online but only briefly, just long enough to get the gist. It was about Susan Sontag and her lists of likes & dislikes. An exercise about owning and claiming your truth, for better and worse. I let her name float around my brain & found myself transported back in time to when I was a younger & more insecure version of myself.
It was the first year of graduate school. I was young, inexperienced, full of passion for painting, but lacking in life experience. The program I had chosen was more conceptual than I had anticipated. I found myself unable to grasp the readings and ideas being presented. I felt lost, inadequate. You aren't smart enough to be here. You don't belong. My anxiety was a thick and heavy layer that kept me distanced from my potential and from making paintings I connected with.
I am a firm believer that we find ourselves in the right place at the right time, no matter where, even if it's hard & horrible. I have regrets about that time and place. Looking back, I understand now that it wasn't a matter of me not being good enough for the program, but a matter of the program not aligning with where I desired to go.
Now, decades later, I skim Sontag's work. I find myself revisiting the past with newfound perspective and freedom. It's funny how time can do that - soften the edges of our insecurities and give us the freedom to explore and make new connections. I've come to realize that I don't need to understand everything. Sometimes it's enough to just hold the little bits in the palm of your hand, look down and find meaning right there.
I feel a sense of liberation for my 24-year-old self and only wish I could tell her: Chill the F out! Your future self will not be weighed down by this pressure. My current self is weighed down by many pressures, but not feeling smart enough is no longer one of them.
It's not just about Sontag's lists of likes and dislikes. It's about how words have the power to resonate with us at different times in our lives, depending on where we are, what we need and if we're in a place to receive them.
So, in the spirit of Sontag, I've begun naming & claiming my list of likes and dislikes. I'm sharing the beginning of my list with you, written just like my buddy, Susan. I encouragement you to write your own:
Things I like: iced tea, chicken tenders, sunny days, warm weather, naked ankles, a perfectly warm swimming pool, tan skin, pink toe nails, noise canceling headphones, thrifting, walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies, vintage jeans, vintage sweatshirts, chopped liver on thinly sliced rye bread at a Jewish deli, pop music, clairvoyants, clarity, shooting stars.
Things I dislike: fog, wind mixed with fog, summer fog, mud, walking through mud with open toed shoes, dogs licking my feet, politics, lying, people who try to “save you” (convert you to their religion), eczema, traffic.
To be continued …
1. Spicy Salsa
I recently had a wonderful and fulfilling weekend away with my girlfriends from elementary, middle, and high school. The timing of the trip coincided with the recent Full Moon/Eclipse, which I believe heightened my big feelings about the weekend - I can only speak for myself in this respect though. We spent a lot of time discussing a wide range of topics (and this is to put it mildly … we talking about f*cking everything), and I am excited to explore these with you further in the upcoming weeks. For now though, my third grade BFF made a memorable salsa that I wanted to share. Below is a link to a basic version, but she customized it. Her recipe included pumpkin seeds in addition to the peanuts and sesame seeds. The flavors made memories LOL!
2. 17 songs
3. As a young Sontag once wrote:
I perceive value, I confer value, I create value, I even create — or guarantee — existence. Hence, my compulsion to make “lists.” The things (Beethoven’s music, movies, business firms) won’t exist unless I signify my interest in them by at least noting down their names.
Nothing exists unless I maintain it (by my interest, or my potential interest). This is an ultimate, mostly subliminal anxiety. Hence, I must remain always, both in principle + actively, interested in everything. Taking all of knowledge as my province.
- Susan Sontag