A Sense of Place: the space we inhabit vs. the space we create.

IMG_4812Where you live impacts the life you have.

Your sense of community.

Your career and/or creative opportunities.

The conversations you have…or don’t have.

The older I get, the smarter my parents seem in retrospect. (I know I am not alone in this humbling realization.) I recall receiving this advice as a restless yet serious little girl/young lady/insufferable teenager:

Mom: “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Dad: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Seems simple enough, and I’m certainly smart enough to know these sayings are true and we can’t run from who we are. Growing up in the northern prairie, I learned a certain tenacity to get through the harsh winters and general lack of cultural infusions of inspiration. I created art, not because I had anything in particular to say, but because it was inherent to my survival. I drew and painted pretty pictures and made my own clothes. It makes perfect sense to me that over the years I continued to keep one foot in fashion, the other in art.

Last summer I returned to my roots in Fargo/Moorhead after over 16 years in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. I surprised a lot of people with this decision, but I’ve learned that when I get a bright flash of inspiration I have to go with it. It’s just that this time the flash happened to be the love of my life.

As a creative, I have always been responsive to the space i am in. When I moved to Minneapolis in my 20s, I thought “OK, now these are my people”. So many opportunities, so much possibility, so many likeminded people. Now that I have returned “home”, I realize “OK, these are my people too”. However, it is different. The humor is a bit more dry, the air is a bit more cold, and (many of) the people are a bit more self-deprecating and stoic. I am surrounded by people who know how to survive the bitter cold.

By some miracle, I am painting again after over a decade. I am making prettier pictures than ever, but now I have plenty to say. I’ve been wondering what’s up with that- am I simply trying to survive? I’ve decided that it does not matter. For the first time in ages, I am creating because I can’t NOT create.

I am back on the soil I was planted in, and here I am- being me.

It has not been an easy transition, but that has been what has made it worthwhile. I’ve had to make some conscious decisions and create new patterns and systems to support the type of “businessy” work that I do, as well as honor the space I am in now.

So how do we “craft” a creative life without finding ourselves in a bubble? It has never been so easy to create or WANT to create a bubble these days. But now that we are beginning to understand the implications of being in a bubble, versus really understanding our surroundings…it becomes more important to take in the big picture.

I have found that getting really great answers to the the questions I ask myself really starts with asking better questions. So instead of asking questions like “why is it so hard to make new friends as an adult in the upper midwest?” or “why do people think it is ok to drive 15 miles per hour?” (OK, these are questions that I have DEFINITELY asked. But they really don’t get me anywhere. They are complain-y questions, not give-me-a-great-answer questions.) I’ve been working to find questions that actually accomplish something.

Here they are in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

1- Who am I, no matter what?

This is a different take on the “if money were no object…” question. Find yourself with a blank slate and what do you do with it? Me, I have to create art, have meaningful connections with my friends/family/community, and always be learning. It look me a long time to get to the core of who I am, but it really helps me come back to myself with things get chaotic. It is like a personal mission statement.

2- What conscious decisions can I make to support the life I would like to lead?

Once my core is understood, it is easier to make decisions to support what will make me feel solid, no matter where I am. I found a studio for me to create art and run my creative business, and I show up pretty much every day. I am carving out time to connect with the people I already know and taking time to meet new people, despite my introvert tendencies. I am also connecting with online communities and learning some very specific skill sets that I would not have access to otherwise, but now I could be anywhere in the world. I just happen to be here.

3- What are the things that I can not control that could seem to get in my way?

I have found more opportunities to bite my tongue and hold space for controversial conversations in the last several months than any other time in my life, as I am no longer in my “liberal bubble” of Minneapolis. I am learning how to be a stepmom. I am executing on my creative vision for my business in a place that is relatively devoid of my industry. Oh, and then there are those slow, slow drivers.

4- How can I blend the the intentional decisions with my inherent surroundings?

This is just life, but it is when sh*t gets real. I did not spend the last couple of decades of my life working towards healing and personal growth, to not be challenged so I can grow some more and have a deeper understanding of the human condition. We have to interact with our greater communities so we can better appreciate them and ourselves. And those slow cars? I’d love to say that they’ve taught me to slow down and enjoy the ride…but- ok, well, maybe…MAYBE.

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