I have found myself endlessly curious about what it means to be fully alive.
I have begun to be compelled to tackle this mystery. You see, I chose to go into art as a way of being in this world--of being present in the moment, as a way to connect with others, and as a way of being fully alive. But I found that making paintings in a studio was not the definition of fulfillment that I thought it would be. Now you can imagine making paintings is hard enough, but couple that with a motivation that started to go away, and you get frustration. What you get is the death of a dream. I started to feel vocationally homeless, wondering why I didn't quite fit in at art school. What I had worked so hard for began to feel barren and lifeless, like ashes left over from an enormous fire.
Which started to remind me of my old college professor, Mr. Bippes. This wise and endlessly voracious art professor with a red beard and a limp, who who had once extended everything he knew about drawing and life to me as a student took the time to read one of my essays. He found me later, and as he so often did, seemed to have the gift of prophecy. Liz...(he is one of the few people who I allowed to call me Liz). "Liz, you're a writer. You're really a writer." That was it. He turned around, walked out of the classroom, and was gone. He left me to stand there wondering how I was supposed to finish my undergraduate thesis exhibiton with THAT particular bit of teaching. Not helpful, Mr. Bippes.
Except that it actually was the thing that I needed to hear. It's a testiment to my strong will or ignorance that it has taken me an additional 20 or so years to act on what I knew: that he was right.
I'd like to invite you to a journey with me. Because what I know for sure is this: what we all are looking for is to find something that makes us come alive. That makes our hearts beat just a little bit faster. That is compelling enough that we would do that thing no matter what. Something that latches on to a larger idea in the evolution of humankind: that engages us in the larger story and invites others along.
But how? That's the hard thing. Because your work can and often is different from your vocation. Because we have families, and health insurance, and lists of the next 'right' thing to do. But what I am starting to see is a pattern. People I am meeting who are actually living this 'aliveness' for themselves seem to be following a different way. I'd like to introduce you to a few of them. Together, maybe we can learn and start to establish unexpected patterns in our lives. A new way of being in the world. Maybe even something that looks like being fully alive.