Hey, it’s been awhile! A lot has happened. Well, more accurately, we’ve been a lot of places and eaten a lot of carbs in foreign countries. But domestically, a lot has happened, too. And many more things are about to! My dearly supportive other half is spending this fall on his family’s ranch in southern Colorado. There are a few projects that need seeing through and he wants to take on more responsibility in helping out with the workings of the ranch. I’m excited for him, and I’m coming along. I also hope to contribute to the ranch, in whatever way this city girl can. Does identifying birds and documenting sunsets help a ranch somehow?
Joking aside, I want to learn. The ranch needs us, and well, we need it right now. We said goodbye to our beloved cat this week after an illness that began earlier this year. Though we’ve been preparing for this loss, it’s hit us hard. I’ve shared the last 13 years of my life with that sweet animal, I know it’s not the sort of thing you get over quickly, and I’m giving myself the time. I’m so used to scanning the room for sunny spots where he might be napping, and calling his name as I walk through the door in the same sing-songy way I have all these years. These habits are hard to break. We miss him a lot. I’m so grateful for the time we had, but also a little too overwhelmed with memories here at home. One day at a time.
We didn’t really have a plan when we quit our jobs last year, except that we wanted to be available for experiences which our office jobs precluded us from having, and to (eventually) focus on our own passion projects/non-office jobs (read as: travel for extended periods of time and start our own businesses). We expected this freedom would allow us to travel the world, unhindered by any work stress (ha!), solely focusing on travel logistics and being present in our experiences, since that’s what we (ostensibly) quit our jobs to do. We thought we’d have a measured attitude to our new professional endeavors, that our entrepreneurial drive would be secondary to our wanderlust. We were wrong. It turns out when you start a passion project, you’re um, passionate about it. We got darn attached to our new work lives, and it quickly became clear that being away for several months at a time was not actually going to work for us. I missed my studio and knowing where my stuff was (or at least knowing where to look for my stuff) at any given time. Being back in the States feels necessary and just as exciting as the prospect of unlimited travel did only a year ago. We loved our time abroad (wine, ham, bread, repeat - what’s not to love), but found being our own bosses meant we cared so much (too much?) about our new roles, we preferred to work rather than play. Largely because our new work lives feel a lot more like play, even in the most stressful times (of which there are many).
Many of those stressful times are borne out of working hard on something nobody asked for. Everything feels like a risk. There is a significantly long lead time in creating all my prints, so I have plenty of time to overthink the future. It’s so easy to get lost in a feedback loop of: “How will this land?/Will anyone like this?/What if I don’t have any sales this month because I put all my effort into this thing that no one likes?” Sound relaxing and sane and objective? Nope. And those questions are also competing with: “Does this piece express what I wanted it to?/Am I challenging myself enough technically?/Is this the piece I should be working on right now?” It’s strangely taboo for artists to talk about the “saleability” of their work, especially in a preemptive, strategic sense. Everyone shoulders their creative and financial demands differently, but I’ve always been artistically paralyzed by trying to think about what will sell as the impetus for new projects. I also have to think about selling pieces to stay afloat. When money is tight and there are more bills to pay, the thought of spending precious resources and energy on something that won’t sell isn’t just a tad worrisome, it’s cause for routine 2:00-5:00 am overthinking marathons which (on occasion) devolve into existential peril. What I’m trying to say is, making a living off of the thing you love to do creates conflict, confusion, and a lot of internal debate. Much of this inner dialogue requires focus to get through.
Focus which seems too hard to come by lately in Oakland. Our little home is maxed out, it’s the living space and working space for two people, serves as my supply warehouse and shipping center, as well as a full service kitchen for nearly all of our meals. As someone who always chased city sidewalks, cultural melting pots, tall buildings, and urban excitement, I’ve been taken aback by my recent urge to quit the Bay Area and move somewhere far away. The grass is always greener. In this case, the grass has cattle on it. Previous visits to the ranch have spoiled us with moody thunderstorms and sherbet colored sunsets. I increasingly feel resentful of the freeway noise and helicopter buzzing in our Oakland neighborhood, wishing for bird calls to identify instead. I also wish like hell that people would stop breaking into my car or stealing parts of it - it’s a real buzzkill, and a real crisis for my bank account (upon the last break-in, I exclaimed to J that I wanted to move someplace where the only thing I had to worry about regarding my vehicle was a snake crawling under the hood for warmth. I think of weird things when I’m distressed and financially anxious).
Despite all the things I just mentioned, I know our grief is also a strong motivator to get away. This place feels sad right now. I’m hopeful that will change as we get some distance from this difficult time, but right now I’m happy to get away. And despite my frustrations, I continue to be proud of Oakland, for so many reasons. I'll always feel lucky to have been shaped by this city. I don’t expect things to magically pop into place once we arrive in CO, but I think it will be a valuable experiment in finding our future. Could we really live in the country? Could I even exist outside of California?! Whatever we find out, our time on the ranch will be one those experiences we wanted to be open to when we first embarked on this journey last year. Along with helping out however I can, I’ll be moving my studio (well, most of it) to southern CO and will be working on business as usual, but with a better view. I’m also using this change of pace to test out some creative ideas that haven’t been prioritized in our routine-based lives in The Bay. Excited to share them here very soon.