Let the Young Lead You

I know personally so many great teens and pre-teens right now. I see videos of more circulating online. These are young people who care, young people who are tech-savvy while still connecting with each other, young people who are articulate and well-read, young people who value truth and knowledge and are willing to take action with what they learn. The post-9/11 babies who didn’t have that trauma (and let’s face it, many of us never actually dealt with any of that so it still lingers), a generation that lacks the cynicism that my generation has because we all actually bought into the lies society fed us and felt betrayed.

You have seen the shit the world can throw at you already at a young age, and you still stand firm in yourselves. You keep your mind and your heart open but are ready to fight for truth. You are in a remarkable position of being grossly underestimated by the current power structure, and I hope you use it to your advantage. They will continue to attempt to infantilize you, for as long as they can. They will continue to try to lay insecurities on you, and stress, and fear, and blame you for everything they can, as they have done on the generations before you, but I think there are enough of you that will see through all that, which is so exciting to me.

Thank you, all of you, for giving me real hope for the future, for allowing me to feel like the fight has not been in vain and that my children may have a chance to take part in a monumental shift for humanity. For giving me the bright spot I need to continue chipping away where I can. Thank you also to the parents of these kids because you learned enough to plant the seeds and break generational cycles to allow those seeds to bear fruit. It is a collective effort to improve society, even as we each individually do what we can, and it is so refreshing to realize so many are attempting to make that shift.

Advertisements

America, Home of the Free?

I haven’t posted very much about the new political and social climate here in the States. In part, I try to avoid saying our new president’s name as much as possible. But honestly, I am having a hard time getting angry.

See, I’ve been angry for years. Since a young teen really, so it’s been a couple of decades at this point. I have been spouting off about the dangers we were heading toward for a very long time. And now that we’re here, all I can do is feel sad. Sad that we allowed this to happen because of our complacency. Sad that so many people are suffering. Sad that so many still don’t understand that we are all culpable for the actions that those in power take and have taken because we fueled the beast with our sweat and our dollars, and in fact we still are doing it even as we fight it. We handed over our power and said “take care of it all for me” and then stuck our fingers in our ear and were surprised by the results of our actions. We are reaping what we sowed, and our parents sowed, and so on even back to the founders of this great experiment of a nation. Which is why I snicker when people want to go back to the “good ol’ days”. But that’s a tangent so never mind.Not that I am into saying “I told you so”. I just feel on the outside of a lot of what is going on because I’m not angry or grieving or surprised. I find myself in Observer mode, giving people room to feel anger and grief, trying to help others process when I can, to encourage others to take their feelings and turn them into actions, to take action myself in small ways that never feel like enough.

I still find myself feeling hopeful that we can build momentum and make a big leap forward as a society, even as a species, but I know it could go either way, and that every leap forward comes at a steep cost. I don’t worry so much for myself but for my children. What kind of opportunities will they have? Can we fix enough? Will more people in their age group understand basic truths about the way the Universe operates and that no one in this world has to suffer unnecessarily? And is our having to deal with the craziness that is happening right now the impetus necessary to get us to a brighter future? I have to believe that possibility exists so I can go about my day and be present for my children.

In the midst of everything going on, I want to remind all of you that sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is to take care of yourself body and mind. Keep yourself toned and sharp. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones not to be complacent, to be ready to fight and win in a war of words with Truth over opinion, with Love over fear. And you should be ready to defend yourself and others physically if it comes down to that and to even run if it really comes down to that as well. The times are uncertain, but the future is still not set in stone.

Job Opportunities and Future Creative Endeavors

I have a job offer that I am accepting. It starts in a couple of weeks. I’ll be the one working full-time again, while my husband will continue his part-time position he found for a few months at least to replenish our savings a bit and continue freelancing from home while watching the baby. And we’ll see how things go.

As it seems to matter less now that I keep these two sides of my lives separate, I will discuss my former job and my future job. I was working as a theatrical costume designer and costume shop manager at a local theater before I was let go after getting sick and being unable to complete the costumes before a show opened. Costume design is what I have my training in, and it’s something I really enjoy doing when I am working with people that are good to work with. But the entertainment industry is one that is really easy to be taken advantage in, to burn out, to deal with all kinds of crazy personalities, and to drive yourself into the ground. If you want to check out my work (and learn my real identity – ooo) you can see my portfolio page here. I need to update my Bio page eventually, as all I did was remove the section about where I had been working, but I’m in no rush to do that yet. I also have a tumblr blog where I occasionally post pics of me wearing vintage and repro vintage outfits as a kind of soft-marketing for the custom work I do here.

My new job is going to be doing bridal and formal gown alterations and helping to grow a second shop to it’s full potential. I’ll be making the same rate of money, even bringing in a little more possibly, and I’ll get to work from home part of the time. And the hours, while possibly getting crazy during prom season, won’t be anywhere near what I was putting in every time we led up to a show opening at the theater.

So, pluses are my family and I get to live at the same level of comfort we were at before, maybe even better because we will be able to start building our savings up again. I’ve worked with this woman and in this shop as a freelancer several years ago when I was freelancing show by show at the theater as well, so we have a relationship and I really admire her. I’ll get to help people feel beautiful and confident on their big days, and I’ll still get to be creative in making the bustles of gowns (which I actually love doing) and some custom work as it comes up. I’ll have more time with my family and more energy to put into my own creative work. And I’ll get to surround myself by pretty fabrics and dresses almost every day.

Cons are that after working in theater, almost everything else feels boring by comparison. There are so many little problems that need solving, so much fly-by-the-seat decisions that need to be made, that it is difficult to move at a slower pace. This is why I’ve said in the past that I have two speeds – 100 mph or not moving at all because I overworked myself. So maybe this is actually a plus, because I’ll be forced to modify my way of doing things. Anyway, the other con is that costume design is this blend of everything I enjoy doing – reading and analyzing scripts, historical research, psychoanalyzing characters, inputting all of that in my brain and sketching out ideas, collaborating with the scenic and lighting designers to best realize a director’s vision, occasionally doing fancy renderings, having to read actors to get them to want to wear what I want them to, and then buying/sewing/renting the costumes and making sure they all fit nicely and the actors can move in them the way they need to move. All while on severe budget and time constraints. Doing alterations won’t engage me in the same way. Again, possibly a plus because it will leave me room in my brain for my own projects to be bubbling away, and it will also allow me to focus on my further growth as a human being, allowing me to listen to podcasts and lectures while I work and to just daydream a bit more than I’ve had the opportunity to do in recent years. Another con is that some of my work at the theater was put into helping in our local school district, occasionally going in and working with very poor, at-risk students. We would also pull some of those students into shows we were doing sometimes. Now I won’t have that direct interaction in the community that I felt was really valuable, so I have to find a way to add that back in again somehow.

All this leaves me with having to decide where to put my few hours a week of creative energy. If our positions had flip-flopped and I was the one freelancing from home, I would have tried to build up my sewing business, doing alterations, yes, but also coming up with some kind of line. I could have made a lot of money off of vintage-inspired kids clothes but probably would have quickly gotten bored with it too (cutting the same thing over and over isn’t exciting), and I’ve been leaning toward creating a custom corset and costume line since grad school and have so many ideas for it. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like sewing a lot more after sewing so much during the week, and it feels silly with the world being where it is to put a lot of energy into corset making. I also have two big commissions for the year all ready lined up which will take a lot of time. So I may still dabble at creating a line of things to sell, combining pieces I’ve already made with new pieces, but I doubt that I’ll be motivated to move very fast on that end. So I’d like to focus more on work under this name, as I move to fully unblock myself. I’ve been loving painting this abstract, and may do a couple of more before tackling those bigger pieces I’ve been putting off for years. The writing… I have to see what will happen with that. I have enough poems to probably put together another collection, and I’ll have the time now in theory to try to get out to some poetry readings. The fiction is difficult. I read through some old story ideas and I am really interested in a lot of them, but with reality being so much like fiction these days, I’m having a really hard time wanting to delve into it. I’m not going to push myself too hard on that front, because I can’t force myself, but I will write something every week. And music – I’m building myself up on that front too. I probably won’t try to start pushing myself more until the baby is a little older and weaned, but I want to have that in my life again. Maybe I’ll combine the writing and the music and start writing my own songs again as a means to get back into writing. I don’t know. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. I need to continue to give myself permission to play, and I am trusting that it will sort itself out.

So that’s where I’m at. We’re going to have a rough transition into me being out of the house as the baby definitely likes me better than daddy at this point, and I’m sad that I can’t be a happy housewife for a while longer. But it will be good. I am glad that we’re going to survive this bump, and I feel like I got a nice little 2.5 month extra maternity leave and the chance to fully heal, which is more than so many people get. And I’m also proud that my work ethic stands on so firm a footing that upon posting that I got fired from my job, I was made a job offer with no questions as to why I was fired (we did discuss it later on). This is also the second time that someone wants me so badly that they are creating a position in order to have me. Having me available is the impetus toward someone else pushing forward in an endeavor, and that feels really great.

Life Changes Yet Again

I’m going to be full-time gainfully employed again with my current employer. They offered, and I have decided to accept. Which is great in lots of ways. But also means that I’m going to have even less time for the work I do here, so that made me start wondering two things.

First, I started questioning whether I should even be bothering attempting the personal projects or with this blog anymore. I have a job that is creatively fulfilling and time consuming and has the added stress (and challenge and fun) of being in charge of a lot. But I will always slowly chip away at my writing and art and music, and while my job is creatively fulfilling, it does not feel as necessary to me as the work I do here. So I may as well push forward with this, even knowing it will never ever be as quickly as I want it to be. And to kind of cement the idea in my head, I finally began setting up a gallery at Fine Art America to push my art out to a larger audience, and I forced myself to charge what other artists were recommending verses the paltry price that I was thinking of charging for myself. It will be a while until I finish setting everything up, but once I do, I’ll get around to fixing the art section here on this site. That’s the way I banish the “why should I bother’s” and “I’ll never be good enough’s”… push myself past my comfort zone.

The other thing I started thinking about was when to cross my two working relationships over. I know eventually I want to tell everyone who knows me about the work I do here under this name, not just a select few. And I suppose eventually I’ll share the work I do under my real name on this blog. I still feel like I want to hold off though. There’s the vanity issue, of course, of wanting to wait until I have a big announcement to casually drop “Oh, by the way, I’ve been doing work under the Kat Micari name for years and I’m doing fill in the blank so check it out.” Then there’s the issue of having signed a contract when I worked with the brokerage firm to update a certain government agency every time I move for three years after leaving that job, and part of me wants to wait until a few months after I move again or until after the three years are up (whichever comes first) so I don’t have everything that I’ve done under the Kat Micari come up under the random search that I’m sure will be done after the paperwork is filed. Not that I’ve made it especially a secret, as far as using the same SSN to get paid and file taxes and such, and not that I feel like any of my creative work is something to be ashamed of, but I just don’t like drawing attention to myself. And that’s a little more protective than I need to be, but there you go.

Anyway, it’s a strange fork in the road right now, one that I didn’t imagine being at two years ago. Everyone keeps telling me how excited they are for me and how lucky I am, which I suppose I am, but it’s also really a lot of work so I don’t always know how to respond to them. The luck piece of it is there, but the hours and physical and mental labor seem lessened when people talk too much about the luck piece, not to mention the years of training and the sacrifices I’ve made along the way. And while it is really exciting to be helping to build something from the ground up and to be well-compensated for it (in comparison to the rest of the industry), I’m finding that it is also a big pain to be in charge of other people directly and to have so much depending on things that I’m not in control of but still responsible for. At least as a freelancer, the only person I have to depend on is myself. Well, we’ll see what happens. It will certainly be interesting to witness how the next several years unfold. I’m going to try to continue updating twice a week here but forgive myself when it slips to once a week occasionally, and just keep pushing ahead on all fronts as much as I’m able to.

Walking the Inner Balance Beam

My life is shifting in some big and rather wonderful ways, on a lot of fronts. I will hopefully be able to get more into specifics on that in my next post, but basically, if I can focus myself and keep really organized, I can make full use of the opportunities that life is thrusting at me. And I want to. I’ve made vast organizational strides the past couple of weeks. I’ve also set myself back on a regular creative schedule. And I’ve carved out quality family time too. But now, my brain is rebelling, in a very self-sabotaging way.

Internally, I am a creature of contradictions, a walking oxymoron. Hot-blooded and passionate and emotional while simultaneously cold and logical. Wanting order and structure and everything in it’s proper place in my daily life but needing mess and chaos to create (seriously, when I paint or draw, smudges always end up on my face, and when I bake, flour gets everywhere). Craving a sense of belonging while needing my independence. Knowing basic truths – about myself, those I’m connected with, and all of humanity – through my intuition but questioning the validity of that truth since I lack hard facts to back up the intuition. Empathetic and caring until I get overloaded and then I have to step back, so I send mixed signals to others and end up feeling as though I’m separated in a bubble of my own creation. Highly sexual and sensual but with a strong moral compass and also exuding purity to the point of almost having a Snow White effect on animals and children (and some adults). Business-oriented but with the need for regular playtime. Feeling confident in my abilities while feeling that confidence waver if I don’t get positive feedback. Wanting to nurture and love while also wanting to aggressively go after what I want in life. The artist constantly struggling with the intellectual. And so these contradictions battle for control, and I’ve struggled to find and maintain balance and usually successfully walk the line. With the new position and path I’ll be taking, though, all of these mental struggles are rising to the surface.

But it’s not just the inner balancing act that needs to happen, but the outer as well. Because I don’t live by myself, but in a family, and beyond that, in a community. So how does one decide what to give and what to take? How much can a person love and nurture and support others until they wind up being taken advantage of? How much can someone carve out time for themselves at the expense of others before it becomes selfish? And are those questions answered differently depending on who you talk to? And it’s when I get to this point that I realize my focus is gone and I want to just stop thinking for a while and retreat to my inner realms of fancy, which if I linger too long in, causes me stress and exhaustion down the road.

But I had an amazing realization last month and that is this: I am no longer afraid of myself and my potential power for change. It was a huge moment that began growing from a meditation last September, and it caused some shaky times in the following weeks as I readjusted to my new self-view. I accomplished my 2014 self-improvement goal, though, which was to learn to move despite my fear, and the world has now opened up a new path for me. I will not allow myself to throw these opportunities away or trap myself in old patterns of doubt and self-debasement, and instead will learn to balance everything with grace and strength.

The real trick is now that I no longer fear myself, I have to learn to trust myself, even with all of the inner dualities. That’s going to take a little more work.

Project Run Down

  • My freelance work with the shop has been going well! Amazingly, since deciding my attitude needed to change, I have dealt with all pleasant personalities who were grateful for the work I’ve done, even when I found it less than perfect. So two bad clients out of more than 30 at this point are stats I can deal with. The shop owner is perhaps a little less helpful than I would expect given the cut she’s making off of each of these clients, but I’m not mad that she’s milking me for what she can. Just aware, and taking steps to protect myself and not be taken advantage of. Next month (June), as it will be my fourth month doing this work, I plan on keeping strict track of my hours and calculating the exact breakdown of how much I’m earning. Then in July I will decide if I want to keep going forward with the work or taper it off.
  • My work in my former field is heating up. There have been the typical crazy issues that, again, used to bug me, but now I’m just laughing them off. It is what it is, and I’m seriously getting paid to do what is playing to me, making crazy things and sharing them. So, as long as I’m not getting screwed over, I’m letting the crazy just wash over me and entertain me. It is an amazing shift from where I was five years ago. The only downside at the moment is that this job has me dealing with things I am absolutely allergic to, and I had a psoriasis outbreak so I’m now dealing with a lovely scaly rash on the inside of my arms. I haven’t gotten too into my issues with psoriasis here, but perhaps I should in another post. After being diagnosed in 2010, I did a lot of research, and I manage without the use of steroid cream or drugs. But if I can’t do this job without breaking out every time, that is a health issue that I can’t really ignore. Something I need to think about.
  • Writing – I finally am scheduling time to finish up The Cephalopod Maid this weekend. It WILL be uploaded on Monday evening, so expect links sometime next week. I haven’t had time to work on the graphic novel at all in recent weeks, but I will start carving out a little time every day for that as well on Tuesday. I’m still doing morning pages a few times a week, but my evening journaling has flown out the window.
  • Art – I decided to put a freaking train in the background of my Sarah Aaronsohn painting, so I’ve been spending some free time sketching trains. I’ve put a couple of more layers down on my abstract painting. And one or two of the four projects I’m doing in my former field will have me painting as I want them for portfolio pieces. I think I need to schedule one day a week to do flash pieces, though, because I’m getting discouraged about not having time to spend on the long term projects. So if I say – I have one hour, and I need to have finished something in that hour, go! – and at the end of it, I’ll have created something, whether it’s a sketch or fast painting or playing with pastels again or maybe even sculpting. It will make me feel more accomplished and give me something to post here, because I’ve basically run out of old projects that I want to post.
  • Music – I was very bad (letting myself get swamped in work and taking on too many clients at the shop) and went four weeks without playing my piano and 2 1/2 weeks without playing my flute, but I’ve gotten back into it last week. I’m really pleased with how my tone on my flute has progressed since the first of the year, and it’s not just because I finally cleaned it. I don’t have time to push myself on the music front more at the moment, but it is on my mind a lot. And I don’t want to find other musicians to play with until we decide where we’re settling.

So where does all of this leave me on deciding what to do for the future? Well, I’m moving forward in looking for more work in my former field, but I’m going to be much choosier about the projects I take than I was as a fresh-out-of-grad-school young professional. I can’t afford to take just any project, especially when it’s a sacrifice of time with my family. As far as where we’re going to settle, my husband has started applying everywhere he can for creative marketing-type positions in the northeast of the United States, looking for a job that can baseline support us while whatever I bring in freelancing will pay for our son’s education/extracurricular activities, build our savings, and be our “extra” money for travel, business ventures, and (gasp!) actual real vacations. We’re kind of leaving the exact “where” part up to fate. Maybe we’ll stay in upstate NY, maybe we’ll fulfill the dream of living in New England, maybe we’ll be moving down close to or in NYC. Or maybe he won’t find a job at all, and we’ll have to re-evaluate our plans after a couple of months of futile searching. In the meantime, we’re doing the best we can, which is all anyone can do.