As each of us makes our way on our journey, we often have no idea where our paths will lead. Sometimes there's a specific, clear goal, but the road is never straight. I know mine certainly hasn't been.
This week Bonnie Christine, surface pattern designer and writer of the blog Going Home to Roost wrote a beautiful and moving post What I Wish I Had Known When I Was Starting Out in which she writes a letter to her younger self, encouraging, reassuring and cheering her on. Bonnie invited her readers to write their own letters to their younger selves in the hope that we can learn from and inspire each other.
In light of all the thinking I've been doing, the idea of writing a letter to myself really resonated with me. Looking back at the person that I was -- hopeful, naive, nervous, with no plan or road map or even idea of where, exactly, I wanted to go -- I feel so much affection.
I took this photo the summer that I first leapt for my creative dreams. It was 2010 and had just I quit my job with no exact plan for the future and an amorphous idea of "living a creative life". I was just about to move to Wisconsin with my Mom to get things started on my parents' new piece of land in the country with plans for my dad and Matthias to follow from our homes in Chicago and Cleveland, all of us converging in the beauty of the Driftless area countryside.
Things didn't work out quite as we'd expected. And I know that in my out of focus dreams back then never imagined I'd be where I am today.
I could boil down my letter into one simple sentence:
I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned over the years. Keep going. Through the darkness. Through the learning. Through challenges and ease. Keep going.
For anyone's creative journey that is good advice. Don't give up.
There's more that I learned and looking back I see that although I felt uncertain and lost at times, I traveled my path with a strong faith in its rightness. I like to imagine that writing a letter to the person that I was could give comfort and strength to her. So here goes:
I'm writing to you from the future, almost six years in on our journey. We have traveled far in those years. Our path has twisted and turned, curved in unexpected directions.
These next years will be difficult for you. You will stumble. You will fall. There will be heartbreak and failure. You'll pick yourself back up and start again. I love that about you. You are brave. You are strong (stronger than either of us could have imagined). More love will follow heartbreak. Success will follow failure. There is always beauty and joy if you look for them.
I know your dreams right now are a bit vague. They will get clearer. Give them time to coalesce. You will know which fork to take in the road when the path divides. Things will be slow going at times. It takes time to hone your skills. Be patient. You are starting at the beginning. Don't compare your tentative first steps with other people's confident, experienced strides.
No matter how hard things become, keep the faith in yourself. You have beauty and joy in your soul, always.
In our studio I hung these words as a reminder: "Never doubt your own true heart." I hope you will keep those words in mind when you falter. You will surmount the challenges. You will develop and grow. You are an artist through and through. Never forget that. And never give up. You are capable of wonderful things. Art you never dreamed you'd be capable of creating. Your art will be in exhibitions. In magazines. Sold to hang in other people's homes.
I don't want to say too much, I know we never like to skip ahead in a story to see what will happen down the road. Let me just leave you with this: we are capable of so much. Listen to the whispers of your soul and keep on going.
Sending love; sending light; sending strength,
I hope that my words will give you comfort and encouragement on your journey, too.
And I hope that you will be inspired to write a letter to yourself. You don't have to publish it on a blog or share it on social media (but if you want to that's great, too -- please be sure to let me know with a link in the comments or an email -- anne at mygiantstrawberry dot com). Write it on pretty stationery or in your journal. Write it on a card and send it in the mail to yourself. Be tender with yourself. Send yourself love and encouragement; you deserve both.
Be sure to stop by Bonnie's blog and read her letter to herself and follow the links on her site to read some of the other letters people are writing. They are so inspiring and moving. The world needs more love, more tenderness. Maybe we need to start with love and tenderness for ourselves.