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105 Likes > Update-One Year Later

March 31, 2014

I wrote the story below a year ago about an illustration I created for a t-shirt contest, for the local Indian HOLI festival. Despite how many people liked the drawing, another design was chosen for last year’s t-shirt.  This year, as the event approached, the organizers specifically asked me if I was going to enter again. I declined. I didn’t have time this year. I wasn’t working at the museum where I could goof off at work and draw at my desk. I was barely keeping up with my work load. There was no time for drawing after hours. Then they asked me if they could re-enter last year’s design. “Of course.” I replied.

This year, they used my design. When I got to the park, the morning of HOLI, I sought out the stack of t-shirts with my design on it. I proudly told the women working that it was my design. They were so happy to meet me. “We love this design. We wanted it to be the one last year.”

As I took pictures and danced and enjoyed the day, I took great pleasure in taking photos of people with the t-shirts on, especially as they became more and more saturated with colors. I went around telling people, like a little kid with a drawing on the refrigerator, “That’s my design.”

HOLI t-shirt

The T-Shirt Design

The last couple of days, I’ve been posting this year’s photos on the HOLI facebook page. Within seconds after posting my first album, my facebook notifications lit up with likes and comments and tags on all the photos. People were complimentary and grateful. My friend list expanded. The HOLI organizer went so far as to find my photography website and share a story I wrote about drawing the picture. (A cleaned up version of the one below.) I had forgotten that I wrote it.

I went back and re-read the original story. I can still relate to how I felt a year ago. I still get angry about how de-valued I felt. But most of all, I feel gratitude. I’m so lucky to be back to who I really am. Or to be who I really am for the first time in my life.

It’s just one little drawing. One t-shirt for a small festival in a small city. But the validation I’ve felt from being appreciated and from sharing my passion and joy with others and having that accepted wholeheartedly……has been an immeasurably positive experience for me.

I was right a year ago. Life is short and the people you allow into your life can shape who you are.

And one little watercolor drawing can change your life.

So, here’s the original post:

 

105 Likes (3/15/2013)

Thank you Mom. Thank you Lori. Thank you Pickle.

I scrolled down the facebook page. There was my illustration, a drawing I did and turned in for a t-shirt design contest.  It had 86 likes. Holy Shit. The others had 34, 12, 5…. Everybody liked mine the best. I started to cry.

“Why did I let him make me think my art wasn’t worth anything?”

I almost didn’t turn it in. I almost didn’t finish it. I couldn’t imagine that anybody would think it was any good. Surely others would come up with something better.

The t-shirt contest was for the upcoming HOLI festival. If you don’t know what HOLI is, look it up. I went to it last year. It was amazing. I was living in a room with George back then. Those were some dark days. I brought my camera to the park to experience this festival of color. There was dancing and music and everybody was so happy, moving to the upbeat, wierd sounds. Then the colors come out and within an hour everyone was covered in bright purples, pinks and greens. And then the dancing got crazy! I remember thinking that I wanted to bottle the energy that was floating in the air. Everyone, white, black, Indian, Asian, whatever….everyone was having so much fun. I walked back to my little room floating on air.

I didn’t do anything with those photos for a whole year. It wasn’t until I saw this year’s HOLI facebook page that I remembered that I had hundreds of photos from last year and no one had seen them. So I offered to post them on the event page. I got a huge response. One or two of the organizers commented on how good they were.

Then they announced they were having a contest for the t-shirt design. I used to talk myself out of entering things like that all the time. I didn’t have time or I wasn’t confident enough. But I know I need to change. I need to be different than I have been. So I decided to try. I looked at my photos from last year. There were so many images with hands outstretched, covered in colors that ran into each other, like impressionist -watercolor-paintings on everyone’s arms.  I used a hand as inspiration and drew paisley-like swirlees coming out of the hand. I used watercolor pencils to fill it in with bright colors. After my daily walks I left my messy apartment and went to a cafe and worked on the drawing.

Everytime I draw or paint I’m reminded of how much I love it. It makes me feel so peaceful. Even so, while I was working on it I thought, “I’m not doing this well enough. I forgot how to paint. This is stupid. It’s too feminine. I don’t have time to finish it. I messed up here. This color isn’t right. I don’t like what I did here.” When the day came to turn it in, I imported it into inDesign and added simple text to finish it off. I hated it. It wasn’t good enough. I felt really insecure about sending it in. It was like looking at the cute guy across the room and not having the courage to ask him to dance.

While I was working on the design, I went to a lecture by an illustrator, Tad Carpenter. His work is extremely consistent and themed. He draws these little monstors and almost child like creatures. Target is one of his clients. Hearing him speak and seeing his work reminded me that it’s ok to do your own thing. It’s ok if your work is not like everybody else’s. It’s ok to be feminine and girly. It’s ok to be you. That has value. He also talked about taking risks and failing and trying. “Go out on the thin ice and ask yourself, ‘Can I stand here?'” he told us. It was partly because of that lecture that I decided to try to enter the contest.

I sent the design in. A few days later the organizers posted all of the entries on the facebook page. Some were good. Most were sub-par. I still felt subconscious about seeing mine up there. As the “likes,” and comments started coming in, I couldn’t believe it.

“This one is beautiful.”

“This one is by far the BEST one.”

“Love this one.”

The “likes” got up to 105 . I watched all this with wonder.

I had such mixed feelings over this little accomplishment. I got angry. Really angry. When I moved back to Lafayette with my then-husband it was a really difficult transition for me. I gave up alot. I gave up my job, my achievements. My success. My worth, or so I believed. I was very depressed and trying to cope with the chemical imbalance and all the major changes along with the endless disappointment, criticism and suffocating tension. I promised myself I would get back to painting when I moved back to Lafayette. That I would follow my passions more. And I did. I painted. My then-husband would come home from work at 10pm, 11pm or 2am, 3am and see me painting in the living room. He resented it, he told me. He resented it. I was doing the one thing that made me happy and he resented it. That was a crushing blow to our relationship. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t happy that I was finding an outlet, that I was doing something that made me happy.

After I turned in that design and saw the response to it, I thought, “I would never have done that if I were still with him.” I wouldn’t have left dirty dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor to go out of the apartment and do something as “trivial and useless” as work on a silly drawing for a contest that won’t earn me any money. I wouldn’t have been encouraged to do it. I wasn’t being held up by my marriage. I was being torn down. That still makes me angry sometimes. It makes me feel like I was wasting time. It makes me angry at myself for believing what I knew wasn’t true.

Then I thought about all the reasons why I did find the courage to turn in that design. My mother. She was my biggest fan. Anytime I had the slightest success she was there cheering me on. She loved my photography and told me so often. She always encouraged my artistic side, bragging to her friends how well I painted. My daughter. My amazing daughter. I read her blog today and it brought tears to my eyes. Her work far surpasses mine and she credits me for creating the artist in her. She thanks me for holding her up and encouraging her to be herself and follow her passion. She inspires me everyday.

After I turned in the design, I told Liz. This was her response, “Good. You better have turned it in. I was trying not to push you but everytime you said you might not, I wanted to scream at you.” Liz holds me up. Liz tells me I’m great. That what I do is valuable. What I do is good. These women in my life are saving me. They are building the future me, with me. That’s what love is supposed to be. Never tearing you down. Never hating what you love.

Let me tell you something whoever is reading this: Life is short. If you are not surrounded by people who love you just the way you are, who support and encourage all that is good in you, who push you to try, to grow, to be you…..go out and find those people right now! And if you are letting someone keep you down, criticise you, dishonor you, discourage you…..get rid of that dead weight right now! It’s not worth it.

How many years did I allow someone else to define my worth. That’s on me.

But where I am right now, today. That’s on me too.

1o5 likes. 105 people said that my work is good.

“I resent it when you paint.” Fuck you! Take your resentment and shove it up your ass! (lol….that felt good)

On March 30 I’ll be out at Girard Park, dancing and listening to music and taking photos and throwing colors. I’ll be surrounded by joyous, happy people. I’m especailly looking forward to being surrounded by young, strapping, energetic, dancing Indian men! I choose joy. And I’m grateful for that!

Thank you mom for teaching me well. Thank you Lori for being such a bad-ass. Thank you Liz for being my hero.

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From → Rantings

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