Whew! This semester is keeping me busy. I’m barely keeping up with email, much less Twitter and blog posts… How have you all been?
I’ve been busy redesigning websites (flaurena and laurenvasil) for my web design class, and creating art projects for my Photoshop and Illustrator classes. That Confucian wisdom Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life is how I feel right now. I can’t remember when I was busier, and yet there is something so wonderful about studying something I want to learn, whose homework I look forward to doing! There really is something to be said for going back to college in your 30s. (Sometimes I wish I’d waited, but then I might not have met Mr. F.)
Although I’ve always loved art I confess to never having studied its history in depth. I’ve long admired Gauguin, but never knew much about his personal life until this semester when I had to recreate a classical painting in Illustrator. I learned that he was a self-taught artist who painted from his imagination, and was amongst the first to experiment with vivid, almost unnatural colour, paving the way for the abstract art that came later on.
I also learned that his journey into the art world was unconventional: when he was 35 he gave up his career as a successful stockbroker and dedicated his life to art. He believed that Western culture was materialistic and found people to be detached from their emotions. He longed for a simpler life and immigrated to Tahiti to find it.
I have to say, when I read this it really struck a chord with me. Not only because I am switching careers at a similar age, but also because I am moving towards living more simply. I’m not sure when it began, but I do recall having a visceral reaction about a year ago when I walked into a grocery store. No sooner than the automatic sliding doors had closed behind me with their muffled zzzzzzzzip! than I was filled with disgust, struck by the dizzy array of processed food, excess packaging, and plastic-wrapped cuts of anonymous meat. My brain was bombarded by the smell of artificial cinnamon and the sight of gaudy advertising, a double dose of BUY! BUY! BUY!
I was appalled by what we have become, this mindless society of sanitised shopping convenience summed up by a single step into a supermarket. Then I felt guilty that I should have it so easy when others in the world have to walk for hours simply to get water, and all I have to do is turn on a tap.
Surely there must be a happy medium?
Ultimately, Gauguin found that the Polynesian culture he sought was being eroded by European influence; but from his disappointment come some of his loveliest work, painted from his imagination. They may not be the true depictions of French Polynesian culture but I love how colourful and free they are.
One year later, I am on my way to finding my happy medium. It looks a little like this:
Taking the time to appreciate a moment but not berating myself when I can’t.
Finding the time to read a book.
Trying to take pleasure in life’s mundane chores.
Being thankful that I have access to good food, much of which tastes fresher because it is grown locally.
Paying attention to what I buy and asking myself if I really need it.
Choosing what ingredients I put on my body, not just in it.
Finding the courage to try new things and being ok with the possibility that they won’t always work out.
Trying to recognise the opportunity in each disappointment.
Accepting that if I want an organic garden then I will have to deal with caterpillars and other creepy-crawlies.
And, of course, stopping to smell those sweet roses / medicinal tang of lavender / those vanilla-musk-scented California trees.
What about you?