Friday, July 28, 2006


In 2003, I participated in the Arts Education Collaborative's first Leadership Academy. Since that time, I've maintained a loose connection with them--mostly as it related to my professional experience in the arts education world. This week, the AEC is holding is fourth academy. I attended the morning workshop to help the new participants in writing their action plan(s).

It was exciting to see how energized, well networked, and driven the current group is--it felt different than the year I was there. The combination of the AEC's successful reputation attracting more highly motivated people and their continuous refining of the academy brought about a different kind of energy and participant than what was found in the first year.

At the end of the session, Sarah went around the room and asked each person in the room (participant or not) to use one word to describe what we were thinking. Of course all of the words were positive. Why wouldn't they be? It was a motivating week for everyone in which they found like-minded people who challenged and supported them as artists and teachers. When Sarah got to me, I said, "Motivated". FOR WHAT? I wish someone had asked the question. Rather, I'm glad no one asked the question. I found the energy of the group energizing. I found the places they are and hope to go exciting and motivating. But my answer reflected much more of what I saw than what I was experiencing myself.

Overwhelmed...Useless...Scared I'll never be motivated again...Unsure of my own competency...Convinced that I don't have the background or interest in pursuing a career in arts education. I believe in it strongly and want to support the people who are making it happen well--but not interested in doing it myself. And I think that's more about education than it is art. That is a better description of what I was feeling.

Its strange to participate in a professional development when you're not working, in a field you will doubtfully ever reenter. Our culture doesn't really understand why a capable person is not working. Why wouldn't you want to do something? Be something? Who are you without that?

My mom talks about when people ask what I am doing, she feels a need to answer with the very part-time work that I had been doing....even though she completely supports my decision to not work full time. I, however, never have an answer. And then the conversation is really awkward until I mention the consulting, the artwork, the commissions, and finally all of the health problems that led me here in the first place. The reason I don't have an answer as clean cut as, "teaching" is because this time is in part about not needing to be defined by what I am doing. But, I always feel like less of something. Even though I know this is right for me right now.

So, what was I motivated to do? (Besides come home, go to bed, lay on the couch watching TV, and lament the fact that I can't imagine what to "DO." ) I was motivated to open myself to new friends and experiences. I have two possible activities scheduled with two of the women I met. One being observing an art therapist in a group session. The other playing the studios at the Children's Museum. Maybe if I offer some of my bookmaking skills, they'll pass me some papermaking skills. I was motivated to find ways to validate my choice right now. I was motivated to consider school more seriously in the nearer future--read more and maybe study for the GRE to increase my intelligence exercises. Which reminds me, I wanted to start doing crossword puzzles.

My head is screaming "I KNOW" as my soul screams "Who cares what others think, you need this time--for so many reasons." And I do know, but it doesn't make it easier. That's always been my rub though--doing what I need to do, even when it is different from what others expect, but always feeling the emotional disappointment of not just being able to follow the norm.

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