Dear Henry and Little E,
So you’re at a crossroads and not sure if you should take the easy road or the more fulfilling road and want my advice. As your mom, my first question to you as you know is – “What do YOU think you should do?” I hope by now I have taught you both that you know yourself best, and I want you to trust in yourself to make the best decisions based on what you know and your current circumstances. You don’t need someone else’s validation to figure out what to do. If you need help, we will always be here for you – and hope you have other mentors, family and friends to round out that advice. But remember that sometimes when people love you, they want to keep you safe and big dreams can appear unsafe to people who don’t understand that -- so follow your gut with a side of practicality and hard work and take advice with a grain of salt. Believe in yourself. You can do hard things!
But you know I’ll happily share my views since I’m a talker… so here we go. The one thing I know is you can learn from anything and anyone if you’re willing to do that. We all will have happy moments, bad experiences, sad things happen, and major failures – especially if we’re attempting to live fully. There is no one way or right way to live life – there is only what you feel is true to you (and your family if you have people depending on you later).
I’m going to challenge the idea of an easy or a fulfilling path. Sometimes when you’re in the flow and hitting your stride, the fulfilling path can feel very easy. Alternatively, it can be a complete grind making you question your existence. I don’t think we hit a point in life where everything is figured out and life becomes easy. Perhaps when we die, and we don’t want that for a very long time! Life is messy and nuanced, filled with contradiction. You can lose a loved one and have a beautiful new life in one year. You can have the most toxic job but find the most positive creative outlet with a creative community on the internet simultaneously to balance it out. People who go through the hardest experiences are often most grateful for what they still have. Positive or negative experiences don’t necessarily tarnish each other, but they exist in the same realm and just are. Same with happiness or contentment. You can have your “dream” job, partner, home, vacation, etc… and it will not mean you have a dream life with no problems. The expectation of reaching a point where that would happen is what sets people up for disappointment.
Here’s what I know. You can do anything you want, but it may not look like you think it will. You also can’t do it all at the same time (or it’s hard to do it all well). There are cycles. BUT, if you really want to do something, I think anything is possible if you’re willing to prioritize, be brave, work smart and hard, and create the time and space you need. I know this because that’s how I made things happen for myself. If I only have 5 or 10 minutes, I jumped on it and got one task done. I broke big dreams and projects into smaller chunks. I created a vision to work towards, and kept it in my mind. When I had creative valleys, I remembered that there are ebbs and flows, and learned to trust that I would not be having an existential crisis forever (just ~3-4 times a year for a few days – ha!). I learned to take advantage of the tools, time, and resources I did have, and to let go of forcing my life and my creative work into what it looked like other “successful” people were doing. I longed for many things and would think that if only I had more free time or a studio space or was debt free I would be able to do specific things. But I was the breadwinner and needed to support our family with my professional career. Instead of giving up on my dream, I painted bigger when I could using gouache or ink, and channeled work into pattern designs digitally. Looking back, if I had been given exactly what I wanted, I think I would have been too scared to fully utilize it. Instead, by having limitations and parameters, I could push the boundaries and focus on what was most important. It forced me to get scrappy, efficient, and streamlined. It helped me to identify what I most wanted. Regarding my own personal art, it was creating paintings and surface pattern designs that were what I wanted to share with the world. I wanted to learn and grow, and I did. I wanted to find my own artist community, and I did. I wanted to fight against the people who told me I couldn’t do anything for myself (and my own dreams) once I became a mother, and that is when I came into my own the most as an artist. So I can thank you guys. You made me want to become a better example of what it could mean to live your own life – even if I’m incredibly cranky at times and frustrated. I know it won’t be forever. I know that so many things that were once scary or seemed impossible became easy, or happened! Writing a book. Interviewing people. Organizing a meetup. Being in an art show. Licensing a pattern.
Most importantly, being a mother has been the most fulfilling part of my life. You guys have helped me to appreciate the smallest moments. To feel so much love and happiness in my heart that I could cry knowing it was fleeting and also timeless and what millions of others have felt. You guys showed me how to pause and find small joys, to slow down, and not multi-task when possible. You made me brave, and proud, and hopeful, and strong.
Life is short. Go be brave. Be KIND. Be bold. Be curious. And we’ll be here to help pick you up and cheer you on – always.
All my love.
Mama (Marissa Huber)
“I think a big part of the wisdom I would like to impart is I hope they remember that this wild and crazy universe is always there to support them. That I do think the odds are rigged in their favor. I hope that they learn to consistently search for the good because it far out weighs the bad and they truly are in charge of their happiness. When faced with a decision to know that their gut feelings can tell them a lot and not to ignore them. I hope they remember the importance of friendship and what a true friend really is. The only person they need to impress in their life is themselves.”
Complimenting this advice are the gorgeous words of legendary writer/musician Patti Smith. She talks here about what to expect from the artist’s path and the beauty of today…
A writer or any artist can’t expect to be embraced by the people. You know I’ve done records where it seemed like no one listened to them. You write poetry books that maybe 50 people read and you just keep doing your work because you have to because it’s your calling. But it’s beautiful to be embraced by the people… the more people you can touch the more wonderful it is… you want everyone to be transported or hopefully inspired by it.
When I was really young… I was really struggling; we never had any money, and the advice that William gave me was build a good name and keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name eventually that name will be its own currency…
To be an artist, actually to be a human being in these times it’s all difficult… What matters is to know what you want and pursue it and understand that it’s going to be hard. Because life is really difficult. You’re going to loose people you love. You’re going suffer heartbreak. Sometimes you’ll be sick. Sometimes you’ll have a really bad toothache. Sometimes you’ll be hungry.
But on the other end, you’ll have the most beautiful experiences. Sometimes just the sky. Sometimes it’s a piece of work that you do that feels so wonderful. Or you find somebody to love. Or your children.
There’s beautiful things in life so when you are suffering it’s part of the package. You look at it: we’re born and we also have to die. We know that. So it makes sense that we’re going to be really happy and things are going to be really fucked up too. Just ride with it. It’s like a roller coaster ride. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s going to have perfect moments and then rough spots but it’s all worth it. Believe me, I think it is.
There’s no other time in history like right now… technology has really democratized self-expression. Instead of a handful of people making their own records or writing their own songs everybody can write them. Everyone can post a poem on the Internet and have people read it. Everyone has access and access that they’ve never had before. There are possibilities for bringing down corporations and governments who think they rule the world because we can unite as one people through technology. We’re all still figuring it out and what power that we actually have. But the people do have the power more than ever.
We’re going through this painful sort of like adolescence. What do we do with this technology? What do we do with our world? Who are we? But it also makes it exciting… So, I say stay strong. Try to have fun, but stay clean, stay healthy because you have a lot of challenges ahead. And be happy.
1. Marissa Huber is a painter, designer, writer and co-founder of Carve Out Time For Art. She says:
“I returned to art later in life after thinking I wasn’t good enough to be an artist. Losing my brother in 2005 and becoming a mother in 2013 made me realize life was short, and I damn well better enjoy the time I have here and spend more time doing what I love and tackling my own big dreams.
By day I use my interior design background and problem solving skills in my role as an Occupancy Planner. In layman’s terms, I play Tetris with square footage and am a friendly hostage negotiator with office space.
My passion projects are working on my own art, learning how to make better digital patterns, and thinking up creative antics for the Carve Out Time for Art community.”
2. Heather Kirtland is a fine artist and the other half of Carve Out Time For Art. Working with oil paint and encaustic, the majority of her subject matter explores emotional states. She says:
“We’ve all found ourselves in varying situations of confinement, camaraderie, reverie and desolation. There are moments when we are part of a community, and moments where we are isolated. These scenarios might evoke a different emotional reaction for each individual depending on time and place. I intend to bring attention to this universal human condition.
Within each of my paintings I also find a joy in the tactile. I create abstracted moments that reference a particular composition usually found in nature. I am drawn to beautiful moments within a painting. There is the small nuances that a color, line or texture can create. Sometimes that beauty is enough.”
3. Patti Smith
-snippet derived from Patti Smith in conversation with Christian Lund at the Louisiana Literature festival August 24, 2012, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
-conversation can be found on Vimeo at: http://vimeo.com/57857893
-Transcript © Marcus D. Niski 2013