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Lifting My Chin Towards The Skies

A gift full of words that calm the soul, heal the heart, and empower the mind.

sunny 28 °C

The following message is an excerpt from a digital care package I received from my friend Nick. I met Nick in a classroom with two windows that faced a greenhouse.

For me, Nick was a greenhouse and I was the weird tree growing on a table with three legs. Nick was patient and kind, always willing to share his knowledge and expertise whenever I needed it, wherever I needed it. Friends like Nick make the world go round, and when the world turns round good people make good things happen.

Thanks Nick, for keeping my world turning. I owe you a lifetime of music that fills your soul, art that makes your heart beat faster, and words that make you feel complete.

You've reached your first overseas mental and emotional breakdown. Welcome and honestly, good for you. It's like they say in Fight Club, you're one step closer to hitting bottom.
But seriously, whether or not you've found it within yourself to put on a brave face and figure things out, know this: you are not worthless, you are not an outsider, and you are definitely not wasting anyone's time.
I think something you have to do is be honest with yourself and the people around you about your situation right now. If you do that, I think you'll find out your state of mind is really the only thing getting in your way. You're in a foreign country, which in itself is not a foreign thing to you. But you're in a culture that you don't have any real prior knowledge about.
Bad? No.
You couldn't have been expected to do your homework in any confident capacity because, hey, you didn't really know what you were in for.
You don't speak the language? Great.
On-the-ground assimilation and education is the number one way bilingual individuals learnt their second language.
You don't know if you want to speak Spanish fluently? Also great.
It's like any language in the world. There are statements, there are questions, and there are hand gestures. And more importantly, there are people willing to teach you. Little things, little phrases, little signs, things to get you by. And you have the internet as well.
I'll tell you a thing: I'm learning sign language right now (American Sign Language, to be more precise) and I've been teaching myself through video tutorials on YouTube. The why and when do not matter but the how. Every Wednesday at a nearby Barnes & Noble, "deaf chat" is held. Bunch of deaf people come and hang out pretty much. You have students and teachers as well as regular members of that community and they are all there to learn from and about each other. I just went this past Wednesday after having watched dozens of videos. And you know what?
I fell flat on my ass the first time I ever signed with someone.
My spelling wasn't clear enough, my words were misunderstood and frankly I felt like I hadn't learned anything. But that isn't the point. I stayed for two hours and learned my way around a conversation and the videos I had watched helped me to understand what people were saying even I didn't know how to say it properly myself.
It's not the accent or the technique or even the speed at which you say things, it's the willingness to learn that takes care of all of that. I know that if there is anyone in my life that wants to learn, to soak up every moment life gives her, it's you.
Spanish culture isn't comparable to deaf culture. There's a lot of pride involved, some racism, a lot of egos floating around; it's an old country and that's to be expected. The only real way you'll be able to flow with it is to be a sponge and notice everything.
Now, I've heard that you're concerned about what exactly you're being asked to do there and to that I can tell you, anyone that calls themselves an artist has no idea what the fuck they're doing. I don't care if they're a painter, a magazine photographer, a graphic designer, a director, a writer. The distinction does not matter because creativity as a source of income is the riskiest thing out there and you know what? The people who say they have it figured out are either lying or being coy. Because it takes a long time to learn your craft, to learn your abilities and strengths.
Forget a career in art though because I'm not sure that's where your heart lies.
Here are some tips when receiving an assignment:
1) Pull inspiration from everywhere.
From books, nature, people, advertisements. Everyone plagiarizes and no one has original ideas. So start taking pieces and notes.
2) Creativity is fun and don't you forget it.
Being paid in any way to create something from your imagination is the single greatest thing there is. Or one of them. Relish in the fact that, success or failure, you're in fucking Europe on an internship that no one else has. Screw the idea that you're fucking up, throw away the notion that you don't belong there. You are already there. Make the most of it. Try, try, and try.
3) Breathe.
No assignment of any kind is fostered properly through haste. Yes, haste can be a huge benefactor when under deadline but it is not what guides the product, only the source of inspiration. Don't ever run yourself too hard or too low. You're your greatest tool.

I know it's scary out there, especially by yourself. You have no relations, no peers. Realize that you do not have everything and cannot be expected to give everything.

Just be honest with yourself. Don't berate any of the ambitions you have out there. Be honest about what you want from this and who you are in this moment. The future is on its way, who gives a shit. Think about now.
Here are a few things to help get some inspiration and ideas flowing.

First is an awesome channel called the Art Assignment run by author John Green's wife. It facilitates art projects from disparate fields and concentrations. This one in particular talks about Psychological Landscapes, something I think you can relate to right now.

This one is pretty close to my heart. It's Neil Gaiman's speech about what it means to create art and to be an artist. Of any kind and at any rate, whether professional or amateur.

Some fun little blurbs here and here.

This is an abstract one, not really meant for inspiration but for perspective. You are living outside of a country that craves square footage and charges for it by the inch. Just something to think about.

This is another abstract one, it's about first times. You're in a first for lots of things right now. There is a beginning, middle and end to it all. And hey, maybe you'll come out the other not only a survivor, but a true adventurer.

And this....well, this is for any other time.

Get up, walk around, feel everything. You're a fucking bursting ray of sunshine that is glowing outside of the universe's asshole right now. You can do it.
Don't let anyone boss you around. Be humble but stand up for yourself. Be honest with yourself and the people around you. If someone asks too much, that's it. There is no conceding it. You know your limits. Push them but do not break them.
And know that all of us, every single one of us, is here if you need to talk or cry or shout or vent or laugh. We can help as much as we can but this is your adventure. And I think I can say with some measure of certainty that we are all incredibly proud of you.
Chin up, love.

Nick and I danced to the sounds of Arcade Fire and Local Natives in 2011. Marcus Mumford was dancing in the box seats over our heads. It was magic.

Posted by mirandabarrie 05:36 Archived in Spain Tagged spain

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