Unpacking the soul

Let’s not dwell on inconsistency or falling behind, let’s just focus on the fact that after a few deep breaths (maybe more) and some deeper creative soul searching, I’m back. I’ve moved outside of NYC, started a new teaching job about six months ago, live alone and drink coffee far more often than I ever have. I still love the color green. Some things never change- but most things always do.

I’ve missed this, but coming back and writing where I left off never felt right. So, instead of hating myself for not keeping up with this blog,  I just decided to stop. At first I stopped back in 2011 because I was blindly miserable with work, unhappy in my financial situation, and my relationships were hurting because of it. So, then the summer of 2012 hit and BAM! I was feeling pretty helpless and lost. So, in August, here I was: I quit my job, started acting in a show, and was losing the love of my life all at once. One of those things was pretty exciting for me: theatre is something I love, but unfortunately, I couldn’t truly appreciate the experience for what it was worth at the time. Then, miraculously, I got a job in September. So, I started working diligently and I really like it. I moved out of a tense living situation right before Hurricane Sandy hit. I lived with my brother and sister-in-law for a couple of months. That first week of not working due to the hurricane aftermath was a big reflection time for me. I thought for sure I would come back to this blog again….but I wasn’t ready yet. Two months in a guest bedroom was actually okay, then a lovely Christmas with family came and went too quickly. Before the new year, I moved into a small one bedroom. My brother and father braved the snowy weather and helped me move everything I own. Stuff accumulates, but I still lost some things along the way…

Since then, I’ve been unpacking. I’ve been working long hours, but remembering to do the things I love in my free time: baking, journaling,spending lots of valuable time with friends- basically re-connecting to myself. In the past few months, I’ve been going through some heavy stuff- and I’m not talking about boxes. I’ve been re-evaluating what I want from my life and how it would look in the next few years. Everything I thought I knew has shifted, but I find when I look deeper, there are constants in me that will never change.

What you love to do, what motivates and fuels you never changes. That’s the creative soul talking.

Hanging out with myself for a bit is helping me realize that the core of my being is always with me and I can access the things that make me happy whenever I desire them. It’s not always easy, but the truth is there and I’m grateful to know that. Needless to say, I’ve been baking cookies and drinking fresh-brewed coffee a lot lately, so I haven’t quite reached a balance, but it’s working and I’m getting there. Here’s proof: Pushing this writing task away was the best thing I could do. When I was ready it would find me, and when I trusted that, it did…

I was on the subway this weekend, on my way to visit a friend in Brooklyn. Subway rides can be transcendent at times when you’re sitting and lulling back and forth, waiting for your stop. You can get really deep in thought. I didn’t even have my iPod. As I’m sitting on the 4 train an idea popped into my brain: unpacking.

First Move from 7-year apartment

First big move. June 2011

Moving. I’ve moved a lot lately. I’ve moved at least three times in the past year and a half, and when that happens, you never really settle anywhere. Boxes take up space, are easy to ignore and  easy to leave for the infamous “one more thing you don’t have to pack the next time”. I began to think about the meaning behind unpacked boxes and got so caught up in my thoughts that I almost got off at the wrong stop! When I finally got off the train- off where I was meant to go – I realized I was ready to come back and write…but maybe on a different kind of mission this time around.

See, I opened a box of books that I haven’t opened in over a year. I thought I would just find books that I’ve read or thought I lost but I found a lot more that I had forgotten about. I found the reasons behind keeping what was in the box and it kind of inspired me. All I know is that  you have to unpack the old stuff to discover something new.

Please leave your comments! Help me finish unpacking…


Opening doors

You’ve heard that saying…”When one door closes, another opens”? Well, this is one of those mantras that I’ve heard since I was a kid. Then there was my Mother’s popular phrase,  “you are who you think you are” which falls in the same category as “fake it till you make it”. They are all connected to this idea of hope, this idea of success based on a positive attitude and hard work. I really believe these things. They are truly part of my fabric, part of my upbringing and my journey. They are part of what inspires me to stay true to myself. True to myself…hmmm…that’s everywhere these days, isn’t it? This push, this advocacy to stay true to yourself? Come on. It’s in every inspirational reality show lately and it’s become a part of this idea of “The New American Dream” since our economy has shifted so drastically. I hear it so much lately that I’m starting to second guess my own truth. What does it really mean?

I am about to get a little more personal in this blog that I have in past entries. I feel I cannot move forward on a mission towards living the best creative life and inspiring others to do so without letting my readers in a little. I have to open up. Our actions- creative actions specifically- are compromised by all that’s going on during the every day norms of our lives. We all have “stuff” going on and my stuff is moving me in a direction that is redefining my truth.

I am about to open a new door, ending a job that has kept me happily employed for the past 6 years and ready for what’s next.  Though I am not sure where this new door is located. I’m not even sure if there’ s one door- there could be multiple entrances waiting for me or they could require keys that I do not have access to…yet. As you can tell, the idea of a new door opening is daunting, confusing and causes my brain to over-analyze. I am on a time sensitive journey here and it’s stressful. Just saying it like it is. It seems easy enough to just move forward no matter the obstacle and trust that the door to the new opportunity will just appear and open. With hard work and persistence it is inevitable, right? The funny thing is, it’s not easy but it’s not a choice in my opinion. I have to trust it. If I don’t, moving forward will feel like a standstill.

Let’s back track a bit. I started this job as a 24 year old. It was my first “real” job. Previously, since living in the city for the brief period of about 1 year, I had worked a dozen other jobs while pursuing an acting career. A teaching job was a gift – truly. Working with children was a natural draw for me. Right before I received this opportunity I was applying to be a substitute teacher in public schools and vying for a full-time position as a teacher. Now, I have my Masters in Education with a good chunk of classroom teaching experience, including teaching enrichment like drama and creative writing and I am ready to embark to the next big thing. I am excited. I’m scared. I’m walking into the unknown. This is the first time in six years where I truly do not know what will happen next on my career path. If I could put the requirements of life aside – which mostly deal with finances (bills I consistently pay, having medical benefits, buying groceries, paying off student loans, etc.), things that must get done-  I feel like I could do anything. Oh when you’re used to that consistency, that security of salary, of benefits, it adds to the scary factor. I can’t go back to 24?  It seems so easy from my older perspective. I can’t go back to coffee shop barista jobs and living out of suitcases. There is almost a nostalgic quality to those days, but deep down I know they were more of a struggle than anything else. I wouldn’t want to go back there to make choices all over again. The truth is, I don’t need to go back there. Six years later I am more experienced, more knowledgeable and just more. I do doubt my value at times, we all doubt our own value – when you look out on what’s happening in our country and in our world, it’s often easy to- but doubting doesn’t get us anywhere. It does not move us forward, and it more often than not, confuses our direction. Yet, there is no doubt that these feelings exist. I validate it. You should too.

A few blog entries ago I talked about the spark- the ignition of an idea and what it takes to make that little thought a reality. Part of my mission is to find the key that opens the next door that leads to my ultimate bliss- making my spark a reality. It’s a process and I’m getting there…stay with me on this one.


Refueled

Sometimes life has pit-stops. I spent some time to refuel. Did anyone notice? It’s totally cool if you didn’t.  My hiatus in writing lasted longer than anticipated, but I’m here, I’m writing again, about 3 months later. I hope you will continue to follow if you have been. If this blog is new to you, read past entries to catch up. Please do.  Also, offer your comments, questions and suggestions about what you would like to see on The Arts Mission or how you are following your creative soul.

Some amazing things have happened over the course of 3 months but there are two moments in particular that are important to note:

1.World Poetry Day on March 21st & National Poetry Month following in April. There are so many activities and ways to participate for both months (and why just stop there?). Next year, you should make a promise to yourself that you will read a poem, write a poem, tweet a rhyme or even read something about poetry. You might be thinking- “Uggggh.Poetry is booorrring. Why bother doing something that I don’t really care about?” Well, it’s simple really: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Plus, why not discover something about poetry you never knew before? Knowledge is power ya’ll. You might discover that poetry is everywhere if you pay attention.  Add a little something extra to your life and show your appreciation.

2. The wonderfully inspiring Courageous Schools Conference for educators and any school professional that I was able to attend for the amazing price of $20.00. Worth so much more!

I hope these two highlights of my time away will give you some inspiration. Express yourself in a comment and keep finding ways to be creative. Look forward to more entries soon including recipes, more about social emotional learning, and of course more ways to stay creative.

Until then…The Creative Soul,

Jessica Marie


The BEST teacher you’ve ever had…

How many social network sites are you on? Seriously. I’m beginning to think I’m going to forget the five or ten passwords I have memorized…at least computers make it easy for you to forget you can just get reminders through email, but even that becomes less convenient, right? Anyway, it doesn’t matter because those of us who are on a collection of social networking sites love it and get something out of it whether it’s information, inspiration, motivation or just enjoyment. Otherwise, why would we bother doing it? There is a huge benefit to our technological advances, we just have to utilize the benefits instead of over-indulging in stagnant screen time. The point of all of this is to tell you about another social site called Formspring:  Join at your own discretion. Formspring (that I’m sure you’ve already heard of- I’m not that quick on the new and hip or the up and up) is all about questions…and let me tell you, I thought it might be fun, but it does much more than add something for you “to do” when you’re bored. It actually gives your brain power a little boost and triggers memory function. I think it’s exercise for your brain – and let’s get real; we need exercise for our brains the same way we need exercise for our bodies.

The question I liked very much on my Formspring page, that was shared by a friend of mine, then again shared by me, was about the teachers in our lives. I read some interesting and often surprising answers regarding the question, Who was the best teacher you’ve ever had?. When I think of this I think of a teacher who inspired me the most or who was the most innovative or creative in their practice. What comes to mind most for me is a teacher who was able to build a community in the classroom where there was no sign of any unity once before in years of schooling together as students. It actually surprised me that many of my peers who answered this question, expressed having a variety of amazing teachers. Some even explained that it was difficult to choose the best…wow. How lucky they are and how much I wish that was the case for everyone in the world. I can pinpoint many teachers in my academic life who were extremely knowledgeable and experts in their teaching content, but I can’t tell you many teachers – (only a handful really) who changed my perspective on my fears or understandings of the world. I hated Math as a child and as an adult I still have a fear of it that I’ve had to work so hard to conquer in my undergraduate and even graduate school years. I don’t know one teacher who fought to change that fear in me. I don’t blame them. They just didn’t understand how to connect to that part of being in order to build my comfort level with Math so that I could maybe succeed at it on some level eventually. I believe that to understand and support social emotional learning is the ultimate seal to the “Excellent Teacher” package. Isn’t that the demand these days? To raise the bar for our teachers? I admit, being a fairly new teacher myself, it’s a bit intimidating. I am by far more versed in social-emotional learning and my connection with children (which is rare for a teacher, I know) than I am in any subject matter. I’m more connected to building that element before even touching what needs to be accomplished by May in Math and Literacy. These academic milestones and successes are important, I am not denying this, but a child’s social emotional sanity and function is what helps them thrive and stay motivated to succeed in their academic ventures. I just hope in this new age of teacher demand that we highly consider the importance of social-emotional growth, no matter what age. Find out more about SEL and the benefits.

I ask you this question, readers: Who was the best teacher you’ve ever had and WHY do you think so?

The Creative Soul,
Jessica


Creativity in Education

I have been inspired by a few TED talks – but this one speaks on levels that I have to share as part of my Arts Mission. Though this talk was done by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006, it’s amazing how 5 years later our educational system may have only gotten worse with suppressing and squandering what makes us human. How precious is the imagination and creative drive of our youth! Denying that kills innovation. It kills spontaneity. It kills our ambition to succeed in what we love and what we are empowered to be….please listen and listen again (and take notes).

If you have trouble playing the video (I did), try the link.

If you are totally swept away by this TED talk, check out author Elizabeth Gilbert and her talk about embracing creativity from a writer’s perspective. It is powerful and will change the way you view personal triumph and failure.

Thanks for reading and being part of the mission.

The Creative Soul,
Jessica


In Like a Lion…

I started writing stories when I began to write my name. I wrote stories the way every author does, or starts out –based on my own experiences. It was all fictional, but the settings and even the characters I created were based on what I knew. It was me, my brother, my mother and father and whoever else I encountered along the way. When I look back, I feel it was increasingly easier to pull from my simple, barely exposed life at 5 then to pull from the life experience I have now. Back then, there was so much routine to draw from. I could pull details over and over again from my visits to the supermarket, the park, my own backyard, the soccer field where my brother played, my ballet class, the library, school. These were the places I frequented…and my imagination drew up stories from even more excursions and experiences.  Keeping that lovely routine of childhood consistent into adulthood poses more of a challenge. I love writing but I feel I do not have that innocent fascination with it that I did as a 5 or even 13-year-old. Maybe this is due to the endless essay writing in standardized testing (well into Graduate school)  or the structured teachings of English classes of how to write a proper research paper. I haven’t lost my love for it, that’s for sure. It is so dear to me – but that itch is so easy to ignore with the inspiration that comes from the end of my work day, a change of clothing when I come home, a warm meal, the pages of a good book, perusing Facebook (I’ll admit I’ve become a bit addicted to The Oregon Trail), or getting engulfed in good television. I jumped on that itch this evening…even after feeling as if I’ve been coming down with something all day (itchy throat, hacking cough) and teaching an after school class with a VERY high-energy child… because I knew if I didn’t just sit down and write this entry – only 20 minutes long it would be even longer since I wrote again. This mission is too important to me.

It’s been about a month since my last blog entry. I feel embarrassed. My boyfriend says to me, “You know, I find it ironic that you are having writer’s block when you are writing about creativity”. Well, there’s my motivation. Thanks.

There are so many topics I’ve wanted to pinpoint and thought about highlighting in the blog. Since I should probably pass out early tonight, I will leave you with some organizations and movements that I feel support my arts mission and more importantly support the creativity in all of us. I look forward to discussing the issues we face in our educational system and the budget cuts that put many arts programs and important national organizations in danger. As always I would love your input – please reflect on a life (whether for a child in school or an adult in the workplace) with or without arts funding or overall accessibility. Please visit these sites, stay informed and participate if you care the way I do.

The Arts Action Fund

Support PBS and NPR

New York Foundation for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts

The 52nd Street Project

There are many more I am looking into…

The Creative Soul,
Jessica


Say YES anyway…

This week is getting away from me and I can’t say no to opportunity.

Are you free? YES. There is this amazing concert- will you go? YES.

Despite the “need” (or possibly pure desire) to sleep, eat, watch television, or simply loaf around the apartment to unwind from the day, I say YES. Saying yes to invitations, to conversations, to interactions with the outside world is something I know I will always be grateful that I did at the end of the day. Many times when I say yes to an event (specifically during the work week – on a school night) I immediately think, “Ugh. I’m going to be soooo tired. Want if I want to cancel?” – but I make an effort to say yes anyway, because…

A) who knows how I will actually feel when that evening rolls around and…

B) I despise regrets – even the word itself makes me cringe.

Let me explain this regret thing. I have the capacity to regret every opportunity I did NOT take. Of course there are times when I know I’ve been there, done that and would rather not, no thank you, put myself in that situation again – that’s different. I’m talking about new experiences, things that sound intriguing, but I might say no just because I’m feeling lousy or unsociable. Feeling lousy is most often a stupid reason for me because I ALWAYS (and this may be a bit bold- but honest) feel better after I go and give that opportunity a shot. This may not be true for everyone, but it’s true for me.

So what on earth does a ceased opportunity have to do with creativity or imagination or the arts even? Well, all three of these things require inspiration. I remember when I was in undergraduate school I would not only write my notes in class, but if a professor said something that struck me, caught me or just swept me away for a moment, I tried my best to write that thing down. I have always been drawn to words and what they can do. Many of us think of word recognition in reading and writing as what words are all about, but  it’s so easy to forget the dynamics of human language. I love to listen in on everyday conversation, get hooked on one musical lyric, a defiant scream, a cry for help and a genuine laugh- these are vocalizations of language that can inspire. Beyond my love for words, writing down and sort of creating my own famous quotations from people I interacted with everyday (I did this with friends and family as well) I could easily retell the story of my life. By this I mean I could see the road I had traveled – where I had been and how I made the decisions to end up where I am today. By looking back on how I’ve been inspired or just simply moved by my day to day interactions, I can connect that to what inspires me today – and if I’m in a rut, I have to look back at what’s motivated me in my past and usually there’s some inspiration in there somewhere. What it really comes down to for me is saying Yes. I say if you are looking to be inspired, just start saying Yes. It may start out small, but it could make a big difference in your relationship with the days to come. Here I am, off on a yes opportunity to see some live music. Until next time…

TCS