Autumn Leaves…

November 22nd, 2010  |  Published in journal

Hmm… where can I begin? I have really been enjoying autumn in New York, as the song goes.

My latest amazing experience was talking to the humanities classes at East New Brunswick High School in New Jersey. A friend from college in Oklahoma, Scott Langdon, asked me to speak to his classes about the path of being an artist and trying to live a creative life professionally.

It was kind of amazing how I felt more nervous about talking to these classes than any other public performance I’ve ever given! I think it came down to these moments of wanting to be interesting, but also honest, and trying to sum up all the positives and hard things that it takes to be an artist… and all the while feeling like I was back in high school myself, with a sea of faces looking at me, some expectant, some interested, some possibly bored (my fear!) … it was really fascinating.

I didn’t particularly like high school at all, for various reasons. I loved my friends and I loved certain things about my adolescent years. Discovering music, going to shows, driving my burgandy 80’s Dodge 600 convertible with the stereo on full blast, going dancing at the “underage night clubs” (ha!), and all those fun times were great. But what an awkward time to be growing up now…texting and facebooking and all of the embarassing normal things can get totally out of control for kids now. Trying to figure out who you are is bad enough behind closed doors, but now everything is public. It could be more challenging than ever to make decisions based on what you WANT to do versus how you think you’re supposed to appear, or pleasing your parents, or pleasing others…

At any rate, I felt very sensitive about saying the right things to these classes. I did tend to ramble. I sometimes didn’t make sense, and probably turned bright red, but I tried to get past it. I told embarrassing stories of times I’ve failed, and even recounting them made me feel a little bit emotional about it… but what I wanted to get across, and what I hope I was able to get across, is that whatever they would want do in life, be it arts or another pursuit, they would encounter obstacles. Obstacles in various forms: people who would hold the keys seemingly to where they wanted to go that might not like them, strange circumstances, personal challenges, relationship challenges, professional challenges, creativity challenges… and that there are so many messages we are bombarded with to keep up where we are and to keep us small…

I really wanted to urge them to think about obstacles and failure as an opportunity to defy gravity and find another way.

This makes me laugh now because I had moments where I felt like a motivational speaker, and those who know me know that this would be a very hilarious portrait. But what surprised me most about speaking to the classes was that I really wanted to be on their side and urge them to remember this, maybe because I wish someone could have told me there was another way when I was in their shoes.

I had a conversation with Mr. Langdon that day about the importance of communication. I have been thinking about that word ever since… what is communication? We are bombarded with communication. This blog is just another byte of communication, of me trying to say something, but is anyone receiving it? We get so isolated today. We will sit in a room full of people and half of those people will be on their phones, texting. I walked into a coffee shop the other day and it was quieter than a library! Every single person there was on a laptop, staring down, straight ahead. This is not like the coffee shops I hung out in as a teenager, where people were playing cards, drawing on tables, chatting about this and that, exchanging numbers, being lively… it was…so… BORING!

Communication is an exchange… it is something happening in language, in presence, in warmth, in energy. Why do we hide so much from communicating with other people? Fear? Insecurity? Security? Is it more efficient not to communicate? Have we become so efficient that we can sit next to someone else with our headphones on and pretend we don’t see them at all? Yes, we have. That is so, so scary and sad.

I am meditating on the word communication every day here in New York City. LA is very different, it’s so spread out and people can get isolated. You can spend a whole day in your car or home not seeing or talking to anyone if you choose. But here you are thrust into the streets with everyone else. You are forced to interact. Some people still don’t. But most of the time, at a certain point, you end up talking to a stranger, unless you are at home in the bed with the covers over your face.

How magnificent it is that this crazy city is so full of people, because there is still alot of communication going on.
Sometimes it’s shouting, sometimes it’s angry, sometimes it’s jovial and merry, but it’s very free, boisterous communication. Nobody has time to mince words, they cut right to the chase. I love that!

In my own life I have had times where I felt good, I felt confident and free and able to speak my mind, and other times where I felt it was so difficult to express myself. My voice got quieter, my mind full of so many things how could I possibly sum it up in a sentence? I enjoy hearing cab drivers yelling. I enjoy the noisy restaurant chatter. I enjoy the drunken Polish guy in my neighborhood yelling things i don’t understand at 5AM waking me up. I enjoy the vibrancy of communication.

Again, I’m meandering in my point… but I’m not a journalist. I’m an artist…I am a feeler, not a thinker… and I want to spark communication in others…
so, it’s time to get off this machine and go outside.

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