Some Reflection, Moving Forward

Hello!  Well that was a trip- I’m not sure how this Spring semester simultaneously felt like ten years had gone by and also like the days blurred together and I barely account for the time.  I’m very proud of the work I did get done this semester, but now that finals are over, it’s an excellent time to reflect on what I need to improve upon for the Fall.  There is real optimism to be had for life and school to look a little more normal (which is good because my anxiety needs a break!) but I still have a lot of work to do.

(Oh and I’m taking the opportunity to recap some of my favorite work this semester in photos!)

I was struggling to decide if I wanted to talk about what I did well this semester first or where I needed to improve but the bigger problem was separating the wins from the loses- I wanted to say that I’m happy I was proud of myself for the work I did with my figures but I had a hard time not diminishing that good feeling remembering my shortcomings in other classes.

So! What can I do better?  Going into the summer I want to give myself some simple things to keep in mind so I can stay productive and make my Fall more manageable.  I have gotten a lot of excellent advice over the last few semesters and distilling all that into a few bullet points seems foolish, having a few sound bits to remember when you’re stressed out is a lot more helpful than asking an already racing brain to recall deep, introspective thoughts.  As simply put as I can, I need to remember:

  • Carving out the right space to work is part of a healthy work process
  • Be excited about progress
  • Work despite your mood

I think these three points may become especially important to me because they are all easier said than done and sometimes seem to oppose each other; it’s hard to look at finding your space as progress and it’s making that space when you are feeling low.

Making space- While I do have a dedicated art space, I still managed this semester to mess up my whole house with art supplies.  It was stressful because I never knew where anything was because I wasn’t in my workspace and when I was done working, I had no escape from the projects I had been pouring over for hours.  I was able to take some steps toward fixing this problem already.  In the tiny gap between being done with classes and weathering my second Covid vaccination, I brought all the random art materials I could find littered about my house back to the studio space.  And while weathering my second shot, I took some less fever-y times to sit and organize.  I’m lucky to have my studio but more importantly, all of my things are together now, and I can see what I have to work with.  I won’t have to talk myself out of an idea being good just because I can’t find something!  

Progress means a lot-  Another challenge I need to set for myself is not overthinking what I need to accomplish or if I’ve done enough or if it’s good enough or will it be done in time…  Lesson to be learned: Chances are, if I’m looking at enough work to scrutinize, I’ve done something and made progress.  Remembering it’s not a waste of time to make a comfortable workspace for yourself or step back and be proud of what you’ve done so far is part of learning what is important to you and what you strive for, which can be a challenge.  This is probably a bigger life lesson too; I can recognize that more often than not when I am anxious, it is generally rooted in feeling like I’m not where I need to be– I’m not a doctor by now, I’m not in great shape, what have you.  But there’s quite a lot of power and momentum in giving credit where credit is due: I may not be a doctor but I’m going back to school and I’m getting a good education!  I may not be a bodybuilder but I’m learning to take better care of myself and understand that the time I take to eat well and sleep makes my work better.  My constant dwelling on, or more appropriately wallowing in, how far I feel I need to go, is, to some degree, silly, as “how far I need to go” is an unquantifiable intangible and how hard I’ve come is a measurable amount of success.  And if I learned nothing else from Monsters Inc. it’s that happy fuel is more effective than stressed fuel!

Work through your mood-  The biggest trap I fell into this semester was letting myself freeze when I was anxious or overwhelmed rather than pushing through it.  I made a lot of excuses- I’m angry and frustrated so I may ruin my painting for class; I’m sad and don’t want to pull myself together to work- but never experimented with just. working. anyway.  I suppose the second trap would be feeling like making art for myself directly takes time away from my school work but I would have had far more to show for myself had I taken those angry or frustrated times to start a new painting, or in the sad times, to give myself that distraction of making art.  The well-intentioned plan this summer will be sticking to a schedule, mood be damned.

I’d like to have some witty wrap up but creating better habits is hard.  It would feel a little disingenuous to say I’m looking forward to the effort and self-awareness required in becoming a more disciplined person but I know I’m a capable person, I just need to set myself up for the win more often.  So here’s to a summer of getting out of my own way- embracing routine, taking the time to take care of myself, and remembering that a little progress everyday gives me something to be proud of more often, which is a nice feeling to work with.

What’s Playing– I’m wrapping up this post on May 16, which means there’s only one song to share- May 16

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