Oikonomia

The other day, on a whim, I deleted my Instagram.

I didn't have many followers on there. And yet I still found myself on it every day looking for likes, inspiration, and the right hashtags to place in my next post. It was taking lots of time. Lots of time away from creating and being real and human. All for some little bit of artificial success; some hint of 'making it' as an artist. 

I've been reading a lot of social and cultural critiques from some of my favorite old and new writers: Shauna Niequest, Wendell Berry, Morris Berman, Jenny Odell, and Austin Kleon. They all seem to keep talking about the hustle generation. The generation of blurred lines between home and work. The generation of never quiet, never restful, never making enough money. And the more I've been reading the more I've been reconciling the seemingly unknown source of anxiety and emptiness in my life with the sense that the culture I was born into is not one I want to be a part of.

Three years ago, I started thinking about these topics when my environmental economics professor broke down the true definition of the word "economics". It's Oikonomia in Greek meaning 'household management'. This changed everything for me. I always became angry at the idea of economics; the idea of paying any kind of special attention to the paper jail that is the American dollar. Especially angry of anything that splits an idea up into its constituent parts and degrades to mean only one of those definitions. My life's goal is wholesomeness and the modern take on the idea of an economy is anything but whole.

Time is money someone once said and I'm tired of spending beyond what my budget allows on gaining approval, curating, becoming distracted, disconnecting from nature, and disconnecting from other people. Cheers to a new economy. To the economy of baking bread, of painting over a period of months and letting the art pieces be seen at coffee shops, the economy of laughing with friends, the economy of creating out of joy and peace and love.

Persist

Over the past few months I have been in situations where I had to interact with someone, weekly, with whom I don't get along. Generally speaking, I leave the interactions feeling stupid and guilty. But in processing end up realizing that, while I may be slower to process and imperfect, I am not responsible for someone else's lack of grace.

And so I persist. I don't remember where I first saw that word being used this week. My best guess is over on Eryn Eddy Erickson's Instagram. Simply put persistence means the continued or prolonged existence of something. In environmental circles persistence has a generally negative connotation. If an organic compound resists environmental degradation through any of the normal processes it either travels long distances and disrupts the ecosystem and/or it bioaccumulates. Which is a fancy way of saying it ever increasingly concentrates in animal and human bodies to a toxic level.

The image that I usually get when I think of persistence, which culturally elicits feelings of disgust, is that of a cockroach. I've heard it said that a cockroach can survive anything. Nuclear bombs, bug spray, hurricanes, screaming children; you name it. It seems disgusting to us because in part it seems unnatural. It is not normal for something living to go on living despite the world. In a weird way this inspires me.

It could be easy for me to peace out of interactions with the graceless. It could be natural to give up on striving for healing and live a daily life. But I persist. I choose to make it hard for the bitter by being kind. I choose to get up every day and breathe and smile and laugh even after the phone call bearing bad news, even after the anxiety, even after the financial struggle. I choose not to go in sick to work even if everyone else views it as lazy. I will make it uncomfortable for you to go with the flow and unquestion everything. I will stammer through speeches though men try to out-talk me. I choose connection when it seems that all my efforts are unreturned. When it seems like my phone calls and my gazes are not getting through. I will continue to exist. I will resist degradation. I will travel far and wide. I will not let any roadblocks get in my path. I will disrupt the kingdom of not good enough, the ecosystem of selfishness, the wild places called isolation. I will concentrate and be toxic to all that is toxic by loving and living tenderly. Nevertheless I persist. And so could you.

 

Bend

My heart's chamber is a catalytic converter.

My arms reaching up to the sky

pulling the curtain of the night down into my lungs

my feet rooting down to take up the magnetic field of the earth.

Both running to meet at the middle of my center

like a kid at the starting line.

Remember the wheat field out back?

So tall your head would pop in and out

like a ball in the sea.

You were finding treasures and stability; I was finding you.

For you are bending ever constantly to the weight of the wind

and I am blowing stars from my breath to light your path to the end.

Should

The snow right now outside my window looks like a million shooting stars. I am in my bed. Alone on New Year's Eve. By choice and by necessity. I have to work early tomorrow morning. I am tired and do not want to live my life by shoulds.

"You should go out and celebrate even though you're tired".

"You should spend all your money".

"You should be around people even though you crave the comfort of silence".

"You should talk better".

"You should eat even though you're not hungry".

"You should..."

"Shouldshouldshouldshould".

There a million things to be worried about this coming year. So many things that need to grow in me. I know I must push through the cold hard winter of life to get to my spring. That the ever increasing build up of snow tends to slow things down and spin me out of control. But I am unused to the quiet and it feels nice. And I know from experience that every shooting star tears up the atmosphere a little bit as it passes through. But that's exactly what makes them bright and beautiful.

 

 

Grace & Hustle

A few months ago, in the midst of feeling shitty about my status as an artist, I reached out to a UK-based lifestyle clothing store that is pretty well-known. They had previously posted an open call for commissions from illustrators through Instagram. Not knowing whether or not the commission was still open and if my portfolio was complete enough to sell me to such a legit company I took a risk and sent them an e-mail. Within minutes I got a response saying that they loved my work and, though the commission I was referring to was closed, they were excited to work with me on a new brand idea. So I sent them some draft designs and there was some nervous back and forth about pay but we finally came to an agreement. It all seemed really exciting and validating- until they decided at the last minute to pass on my work because "other designers had pieces that were more refined". In my head from the beginning this whole exchange was proof that I was a good artist and that I finally had a jumping off point to pursue professional freelance work. Then they rejected me and I felt extremely disappointed.

I tend to get in these creative cycles where I pursue many avenues of getting my work done and seen. And then I'll go months without creating anything. I go from doing too much to not enough. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance out the business and creative side of being a freelancer. It's tough.

A few months back when I told one of my housemates about this potential business venture he encouraged me to keep at the hustle. And I believe him. He's living proof of just how far hustle can take you- being followed by thousands on Instagram, getting paid to travel, and making rent just off of selling Adobe Lightroom presets it took an hour or two to create. One of my favorite inspirations, Austin Kleon, is all about the hustle. This September he reminded us of the original four h's in the 4-H organization's pledge: "Head, Heart, Hands, and Hustle".

I think I tend to separate those into Head and Heart VS. Hands and Hustle. As if these two modes of being are diametrically opposed to each other. My hustle gets so big and overwhelming that I freeze. I become paralyzed by what I think I can't do or by the impatience of having to wait for everything I want. It's emotional paralysis at it's best. But lately, as I've been serving myself with the knowledge and empowerment of being graceful to mental health, I've translated that into serving my artistry with grace.

I refuse to believe that all my work is for nothing.

I refuse to believe that I am not a good enough artist.

I refuse to believe that I'm making no progress.

I refuse to believe that I will have to settle for a job I hate.

I want to work hard everyday and build bridges one plank at a time, one cement layer at a time, and see all those little nothings turn into something big and beautiful.

I want to have GRACE & HUSTLE. Not one or the other. But both.

And I hope you find both in your creative pursuits too.