When I sat down to write this week’s blog I felt stumped. With each week of writing I feel like I’m peeling back layers of myself (see last week’s blog where I fess up to being an extroverted introvert aka a very private person). Cultivating this writing practice has been a challenging and wonderful opportunity to slow down and take stock of my inspirations, fears, hopes, struggles and dreams. But y’all, being real with yourself is no easy feat.
I decided to turn to my fellow grantees’ blogs as possible sources of inspiration for my writer’s block, and damn was I inspired by the courage of conviction and passion that these folks are bravely infusing into their writing. I was particularly struck by Mason Gehring’s post from last week, When Things Get Low, and want to dedicate this week’s blog to Mason in solidarity. The struggle of being an artist in the time of COVID is real. It’s been a year of grief and reckoning, and of dreaming up new pathways toward arts success and sustainability.
Sustainability. I’ve been turning that word over in my mind for weeks. When COVID hit in March I was quite literally stunned. I had two dream jobs lined up with a possible dream fellowship to follow. All three were canceled in a matter of weeks. I think what’s been the hardest is that it wasn’t just about the jobs themselves, although I was really looking forward to those, but also the fact that I had been working toward that point for the last four years of my life. So when the jobs went away it also felt like those four years of working up to that point was also being erased. I felt like I was going to have to start over from scratch. Even writing these words now almost a year later I still feel the anger and sadness rising up in my throat. As Mason so aptly pointed out, that is what the panic of scarcity does to us. It makes us feel like, because the arts are already underfunded and so competitive, that there is no room for us to work, create and thrive.
Like so many, I was forced to slow down. And in that time of slowing down a spectrum of struggles and emotions have come. I had to grieve. I had to deal with the years of anxiety and depression I had been suppressing. But what’s coming out of this now is renewal and healing; knowing myself better than I ever have and understanding my goals and values better than ever before. I am so grateful for the community of family and friends who have rallied around me in my darkest moments. And I miss the collaborators and friends who I have fallen out of touch with. I hope when the days return where we can be together again, laughing and creating and sharing and loving.