On Work & Art

Last week, I moved from one desk to another at my office. I didn’t receive a promotion, but someone else moved offices and they decided to move me too. I packed my drawer of files, my stapler, my snacks onto a cart and moved them 50 feet across the area to my new desk. The first thing I moved over, though, were my photos.

I have about a dozen photos I keep near my desk. A photo of my family from my graduation day. A photo of myself and my love, Wesley, at a Cubs game. A picture of my sister and I all dressed up for the President’s Ball from college days. My dog. Very predictable photos anyone might have at their desk.

There is another photo that is less obvious. It’s a little blurry, actually. But it’s a photo of 45 (or so) people standing in a circle between rows of chairs on one side and a tall set on the other. My sister (sneakily) took this photo. It was my senior year at Wheaton College, the closing of the final show I was a part of at Arena Theater, as a member of Workout. Workout is the theater ensemble at Wheaton College, and one of the most impactful experiences I had in those four years. (Perhaps one of the most impactful experiences I’ll ever have, but that’s for another time.) It was a very clear end to a significant chapter of my life.

I sat at my new desk and looked at this picture for a good few minutes. It reminds me of my more creative, my artist self. I smiled.

There were days not that long ago that I felt like I had “sold out.” I graduated college in 2015 with some of my most meaningful work and experiences logged at Arena Theater. I thought, as I prepared (with great trepidation) to enter the adult world, that I might take a bumpy road forward. I thought I might stage manage or write or (in my secret thoughts) maybe just maybe even act for a living. I would work in a coffee shop or a restaurant to pay the bills and I would not have a lot of money but I would be happy. I would be living creatively and doing what I love, not sitting behind some desk for eight hours a day, miserable.

Yet here I was, sitting at the desk of my 9-to-5 job. Feeling very happy and so grateful. Continue reading “On Work & Art”

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So What About an Elephant?

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My lunchtime spot for musing, photo from earlier this fall

When I sat down in Arena Theater, in the black box where I had acted and built sets and stage managed for my four years at Wheaton College, I looked up at the man that had brought me there. He looked at me too. He didn’t smile. Well, at least not in the broad, welcoming sort of way. There was a hint of it at the corner of his cheek. Although, that may have been imagined. His eyes were smiling and open-hearted.

He didn’t greet me in any way. But we did share that look for longer than most folks would feel comfortable with.

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable. I did feel the need to make him feel more at home; it was, after all, his first time in this place that was a second home to me. Yet, I was left without a way to do that, besides smile, which I did. And then I just continued to hold his gaze for a minute or so longer.

It was new, and uncomfortable, but not foreign. Arena Theater had been for me, and continues to be for others, a place of open-hearted gazing. Relationships were built on this idea that we looked at each other with intention, even wonder. What is going on with you today? I see you. I notice you. Notice your tears or smiles or giggles or inability to sit still for more than moment.

It was actors’ work. We were actors, after all. We tried to look around with a sense of curiosity. To notice things with intention, with interest. Not assuming the person or situation was the same as the last time we had looked at it.

He told us about the “gaze of the elephant.” I don’t remember whose story it was, perhaps he didn’t say, but someone had told him to look out at the world in the way an elephant does. Continue reading “So What About an Elephant?”