I’m thirty four today. *deep breath*
As I drove to work this morning I contemplated the past decade which seems to have skidded by like fast-forwarding an old-school VHS.
Let’s hit rewind.
“Be kind, Rewind,” Blockbuster always said…. as I age myself.
Where was I ten years ago?
I was in my second year of teaching Art, working at a K-12 school in Lincoln, NH. I was living in Thornton, NH in a ski- vacation home in the middle of the woods. Not my favorite rental.
Teaching K-12 was difficult, with a lot of curriculum to organize. As a beginning teacher, this was very daunting. I wanted to teach high school art. I felt stuck, worried a job opportunity wouldn't rise in my area.
At 24, I remember feeling young. Almost too young, where I felt like I had more in common with my high school students than I did with my colleagues (except for a couple). Which could feel lonely at times.
10 years ago I had just shaved my head because my therapist encouraged me to do things that scared me. Back then, I wasn't very good about stepping out of my comfort zone. I needed to challenge myself more often. I needed to stop worrying about what everyone else's opinions about who I was and who I needed to become.
I was 24 years old and I felt that my life was just beginning, I hoped that I had so much ahead of me to look forward to. I was engaged, I was starting my new career, and living on my own for the first time. Though something felt too safe about all of it.
I took all the right steps, right? I made sure that I got my college degree and found a job right out of school so I knew I was financially stable. Done. Check. Next?
What was next? I was 24 years old and you know what scared me most?
Not even a month prior, Sarah had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.
In 2010, my sister, Sarah, was 29 years old. She had recently graduated from RIT, she had a spiffy Graphic Design job in Boston, and then, one breast massage later... she was given a death sentence. Stage four. What is Beyond Stage 4? She spent the next five years fighting every single day in hopes of living long enough for a cure to be made and accepted by the FDA.... in hopes of living to see her son, nine at the time, graduate from high school. She never did...at least not physically.
I thought of my sister as I drove to work today, in 2020. I thought of her absence from my life these past 5 years and how that's changed my family. How I see it in my parents eyes each time I visit them. Their loss. I tried to think about the good times, the time she surprised me with a 21st birthday celebration while we were together, away from family, at RIT in Rochester, NY.
The card that she sent me in 2010 for my 24th Birthday is still hanging on my wall, in front of my desk at school.
"Don't worry about me sis...
I have many more years in the future
to torment you."
Life is too short. So unpredictable. Cruel at times...
Sarah had dreams. Sarah wanted to take life by the horns. She worked hard to get herself to the top - to where she could be independent, successful, impressive, and capable of providing for her son. Before she found that lemon size tumor in her breast, Sarah had every intention of making all her dreams and Aidan's dreams a reality.
But what do you do when you realize that your life has a time limit that is ticking away one day at a time - one chemo treatment at a time - one painful surgery at a time?
Ten years ago I decided I needed to live my life to its fullest. I needed to live as if my life was on a time limit. For me and in honor of my Sister.
Now I am 34 years old,
the same age that my sister was when Cancer took her away.
--- The same age. ---
I need to take a look at myself and where I am NOW and make sure I am living in honor of my sister. I need to count my blessings - the tiny kisses from my children, the loving looks from my husband, the days and moments I have with my family. My career...
My Art - That's what has been lacking this past decade. I remember as a beginning art teacher in 2010 I missed having the time to create my own art. I made plenty of demo art pieces for my classes (most of them unfinished), but they didn't feel like mine, and they only scratched the surface of keeping me sane. It took me ten years to realize that I need to make art to keep my sanity. I need to create in order to feel whole and know I exist for myself and not only my family.
So now, in 2020, this will be the year I make art constantly. Bad art, good art, whatever happens... I need to keep making. I have a few different ideas brewing, and I will keep you updated on the process. I hope to work towards a solo exhibition in the future.
Sarah always told me,
"Embrace your Inner Crazy"
She told me I should run down the driveway screaming at the top of my lungs while I go get the mail. It doesn't matter who sees or what they think. Just embrace it.
So here we go 2020.... My year of Creative Growth.