What Am I Doing With My Life?: Designing Your Life - CBC Podcast
I was listening to this episode of "Tapestry" on CBC Radio yesterday. This is relevant for all of us, at any age, but I found myself wishing that I had heard these thoughts from Bill Burnett twenty years ago. There is so much pressure to chart a path for ourselves at such a young age - and a pressure to stick to it. But I was surprised to learn of the statistics that show that a stunning majority of us do not stick to that plan. When I chose to chart a new path for my own life by leaving the career I had gone to University to have, it was (and can still be) really hard. It turns out I am most certainly not alone.
I hear my young friends talk about the stress of University or trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. And I hear their panic when things don't work out as planned. Why is it important to stick to this one idea - this one plan? What if we change and grow? What if our interests change and grow? And truly... shouldn't they?
"I don't see why you'd want to let your 18 year old self, who picked a major, dictate what your 55 year old self is now doing. Because the likelihood of that being the right choice is pretty low." - Bill Burnett
Years ago, I had a friend relay a story to me: she came across something on the internet that, upon initial sighting, caused her to think was me. She thought she had come across a new venture of mine - something completely out of left field. She called out to her husband across the house, announcing my latest undertaking. As it turned out, it wasn't me but she relayed the story to tell me that nothing would really surprise her in regards to my life's adventures. She didn't question her initial thoughts because she knew me to be continually taking on new things. And you know... that story still makes me smile.
The funniest thing to me is that I don't see my life path being scattered or random. I can see how one decision leads to another, which leads to another. Sure, I could have kept on the straight and narrow - something much more predictable - but I have allowed whispers from uncharted wilderness to lead me off that straight and narrow many times. I can see the imagery very clearly... Have you ever gone hiking? There's often a trail that will lead you to a destination and it's fairly well marked. But then there's these other little trails that branch off, created by curious people or animals who know of somewhere else. In my life, I keep wandering off the well marked trail (the one that I had marked out for myself when I was still a teenager) to explore what else is out there. And often, I surprise people because it seems to come out of nowhere. But I know. The wandering is intentional and purposeful. I keep allowing myself to change and grow and that's rather liberating.
"Can you help me solve the problem of, what do I want to be when I grow up?... Maybe that's not the right question. Maybe the question is, what do I want to be next?" - Bill Burnett
When I read the quote above I knew that it described me perfectly. At times I am compelled to share and other times I simply long for retreat - to quietly work away without revealing my artistic output. These seasons of retreat often have to do with creating a space that allows me to try new things and work without feeling any more pressure than I already put on myself. This is a cycle I have entered into time and time again - regardless of the art-form. I am conscious that my social media posts have not been as frequent and that I am letting deadlines and opportunities pass me by - all in an effort to embrace this time of "hiding away". These times where I seem to disappear are often times of much productivity. And much of this work will be revealed... in time.
The danger of this internet age, where our society is obsessed with having full and instantaneous access into anything and everything, is that these quiet times are discouraged. You build a business with consistency, continuity, and a constant presence. But my artistry suffers when I focus on pumping out work for the sake of making sure I'm always "out there". Times of retreat are integral parts of growing my artistry and I choose not to concern myself with the pressure I feel to always communicate. And I also reject the pressure I feel to communicate in one art-form. Sometimes what I need to communicate comes out in the form of a song, other times a photograph and other times a painting. It may be complicated but it's how I'm called to work.
This particular season of retreat has a focus. Early next year I will have my first solo gallery exhibition. I desire to communicate what I am working on as a cohesive project rather than revealing each piece as I complete it. It's an equally terrifying yet thrilling opportunity and it's my natural tendency to hide away in order to stay focused. I am also working on a special project for an art-themed Urban Market this year which will feature new work which I am excited to share. It's coming - just not quite yet. I am so thankful for those of you who support my artistic endeavours and wait patiently through seemingly quiet times until it's time for me to share once more. Thank you for allowing me to communicate with you and encouraging me when I retreat.
Our Hawaiian vacation feels like a distant memory and with 3623 images to cull, no wonder I haven't completed the task yet! We were so blessed to be able to venture to Maui at the end of January and introduce ourselves to the tropical getaway trend. Yes, I could get used to that every year! With vitamin D supplies depleted, the warmth and sunshine was like reuniting with a long lost friend. As the temperatures continued to dip into the -30's and even -40's back home, we were enjoying walks on the beach and the warm ocean breeze. I'll continue to work through my images and reminisce about our lovely winter getaway. Today, I'm retracing our steps up Haleakala - where we wished we had brought a couple more layers from winterland!
On January 31st we woke up very early to make our way up to the crater of the massive shield volcano that makes up most of Maui - Haleakala. We drove in the dark, winding up... and up... and up to 10,023 feet. Once at the summit we bundled up with every layer we brought (including a beach towel) to brave the chilly temperatures and howling wind. All this fuss to await the sunrise. But we had also planned to arrive early enough to take in the night sky as well. It was an incredible sight. Being so high up, we were treated to a display of the universe like we'd never seen before. The number of stars visible to the naked eye was astounding. Plus, coming early meant that we were able to stake out the best place for viewing before the crowds pressed in. In the first image I was looking down at the visitor centre, watching the chaos of vehicles arriving to also await the sun's rising. Then I had a little fun composing images as the passing vehicles created light trails in my long exposures. With every passing minute the sky changed and the warm orange glow of the sun quickly appeared behind the clouds.
One of the special elements of watching the sunrise at Haleakala, is that you are watching the sun come up above the clouds. Being so high up it feels like you have a heavenly vantage point. I understand that on some mornings you can be completely clouded in! As you can see, the clouds were hovering around the outside of the summit and they moved very quickly. Then, as the sun began to peak out, the excitement in the crowd was palatable. I was filled with such awe and gratitude to be able to witness this sight!
I worked to capture each moment and have narrowed it down to the 6 below to give you a taste of our experience. I am a huge fan of shooting directly into the sun in order to create images that depict the warmth of being blanketed in the sun's rays - and this morning, in particular, my favourite images were the ones where I broke "the rules", purposefully blowing out the light and creating lens flare. I can still feel how the sun instantaneously warmed us up as it emerged through the clouds. I hope you can feel it too! It was delicious.
Okay - so now what? The mass of people barely waited for the sun to appear before they were back in their vehicles, likely heading down to the beach (or perhaps back to bed). I have experienced this so often in National Parks all over North America - and the stats confirm that only a fraction of the millions of visitors actually go beyond the closest lookout points. But, the upside to this is that it makes it easy to find some peace and quiet if you're willing to go a little further! On this morning we found our refuge from the crowds on the Keoneheehee Trail (or Sliding Sands Trail) - although the parking lot was also very quiet in the daylight!
Looks were certainly deceiving. This clearly visible trail down into the valley of the cinder cones was much more challenging than it appeared. (There's a person walking up the hill about 1/4 of the way in on the right side of the image just to give you an idea of the deceiving scale. Truly, he is there - I zoomed in to confirm!) The elevation made the simple task of breathing much more strenuous, as well. But still, it was more than worth it. We kept commenting that it felt like we were exploring Mars. The barren landscape, the colour of the earth, the cinder cones, the clouds... very outer-worldly. On the photography side of things, the harsh light of the sun, which was quite high by this point, was a challenge to manage. Nothing like a challenge to stretch your creativity muscles! It would be valuable to travel up there again to experience the crater with the softer first or last light of the day. If you find yourself in Maui, I highly recommend taking the time to venture up the crater - at any time of day or night!