24 months ago today, I stepped inside the halls of Mineral School for the first time. There to do an artist residency, I was desperate to quash my “imposter syndrome” and actually get some work done that might serve as a foundation for my creative life ahead. At that time, I was fifteen months from retirement.
My restlessness had been palpable for years. The bouncy red ball that I was, would never quite fit into the square box that was the USPS. Trying to discover a meaningful way forward, I realized it was bound to be a complex transition for me. The finish line in sight, I put my head down and asked my body to endure one more year.
Mineral School was like a small miracle for me. In my mind I always identified as an artist but I’d never been recognized in the art community before. Residencies were awarded after an application process that drew over 230 applicants. I was among just 16 artists/writers chosen for the Class of 2018. I don’t know that I fully appreciated the gravity of that distinction at the time.
I stumbled while I was there. “Imposter syndrome” really is a thing. I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something meaningful and important to justify my selection. I brought too much to do and spread myself too thin. I reinforced the negative and really struggled to just be myself. I put this weird expectation on myself, even as I knew there was no formal expectation from others to produce anything at all. I sized myself up against the others and I felt suddenly out of my depth. I tried to give myself to the experience, but in the end, it was an encounter I wouldn’t fully understand until I was well away from it.
Two years later, I am looking back on my time at Mineral School with a deep fondness. How can I say this ? It didn’t give me all that I wanted, but it gave me everything I needed and more. I’ve been cleaning out my art room to prepare for new floors. It’s an opportunity to fine tune my creative life. What I learned about myself at MS was a need for some focus. The last two years have given me the space to let the things that I care about the most settle, and the things that no longer serve me, rise up. It’s not unlike clarifying butter.
There’s a quote that I love that goes something like this: “Where there is too much, something is missing”. I’ve been feeling this in my bones for a long time. “Stuff” has begun to feel chaotic. I get claustrophobic. I have moments when I feel, quite literally, like I can’t breathe. Too much, is overwhelming. It’s jamming my creative switchboard.
The things I love today are not the same things I loved five years ago, or even one year ago. What I learned about myself and my process at Mineral School is helping to propel me a little further down the road. The road I have chosen, not the path I thought I “should” be on. I’m fast approaching a new decade. One that will be more about interest than obligation. More about desire than expectation. More about a steady pace than speed. More about love than fear.
And for other things, less is more.
Less investment in what others think.
My grandfather used to say this about other people: “If someone doesn’t like me, I don’t care, I’ll find someone who does”. It’s a Baldwinism I’ll never forget (that and when he was asked how he was, he would always say: “If I were any better I’d be twins” ).
Mineral School made me a better version of myself. I believe in myself differently today. Did I fail to live up to others expectations ? Maybe. But did I fail ? No way. I like to think my best life is ahead of me. It’s a Happy Anniversary indeed !
You can read my postal “goodbye” here.
You can read about my time at Mineral School, here.
Thanks for reading ♡