A long post without photos. My Thoughts about Time, Art, my Life Choices

This is going to be a bit of a longish ramble. I find it hard to formulate my thoughts, but trying my best here helped me sort them thoroughly. I would love to take the discussion from out of my head into the comment section:
a) Are you short of time, and has it become worse over the year? Why do you think this is? Where does the time go?
b) What do you do/enjoy more: learning something new or getting better in a specific field?
c) How do you know that what you are looking at is art or whether it is any good?
d) What came first: you being and artist or you calling yourself an artist?

Life Changes and Use of Time

I always complain about a lack of time, constantly, I can hear me blabbing. I bore myself with saying it over and over again and yet I can’t stop it. And it is not just me, everyone around me seems to feel the same way.
It wouldn’t matter if it was just a thing we when we say: “Well, the weather’s been particularly bad the last couple of days, hasn’t it?” But it’s not just something I say, we just say. I feel it – and I suppose other’s just the same. Where does our time go, and why do we never have enough of it? Is it just one of the side effects of getting older? That’s what is being said, right, that time moves faster the older you get.

Every year my days seem to shrink. They went from big, juicy grapes when I was teenager, sweet and plump and juicy, full of spare time to assign a library-like signatures to all my books and enter them in a searchable database, to a somewhat shrivelled fruit while I went through uni. They turned into raisins when I had kids, and since this Feburary they have all shrivelled down to hard currants.

Is that perception of an increasingly full and hectic life an illusion, or is this real?

I remember a conversation with a friend just after I started studying, telling her that I had never worked so hard before. – I went to a German school in the 80s, which meant I had all afternoon to myself – school normally ended at 1pm. At uni I had courses every afternoon, and when I got home I had to do exercises and homework after dinner. Frequently I worked after 12 pm, and sadly it took me a couple of years to understand that when you drink from 8pm-12am, you can’t make up the time by working from 12am-4am. But that’s another story.

I said the same thing (about working harder than ever) when I started as a teacher in training at a Gymnasium in Kassel. And again when I quit my job as a teacher and started my PhD in Leipzig.

While working on my PhD I did spent more time in my office, at work, than ever before or after. Especially in the first year when I was still used to getting up early from teaching, I usually went into my office at 7 am and didn’t go home before 8 pm., sometimes went back in after a joint dinner and only called it quits at 11 pm. But those working hours included several coffee breaks and joint meals with fellow graduates, chatting about the newest rumours about who’s doing what in the maths world; they included most of my reading time (web-comics and poetry at the time) and learning Polish (not much success at that; this is a damn difficult language to learn!).

Nowadays my days are shorter. I don’t eat out in company. Lunch is hastily ingested while typing something up, submitting this, or reading up on that. Working hours do encompass learning Japanese, but having kids I learned to be much more time efficient, and working generally means fitting as much as possible into the small time gaps of time. When before I might say: “Ah, it’s only 30 minutes until I have to go off to that appointment, so it’s not really worth starting anything, I can just as well just read a little.” Now I am rather thinking: “O.k., 15 minutes left before I have to leave to pick up the kids, what can I finish in that time?”

There really is a life before and after becoming a parent. It shifts the whole outlook on what is free time and how to use time. Before, there are two sorts of time: worktime and free time. Now there are three distinct modes: worktime, time with the kids, and free time. Having kids (or any form of similar restricted responsibility) forces you to become time effective. Time with them is not idle time; there are these blocks of duty that’s you can’t shift. You can’t decide that “today is such a busy day, I’ll leave them at school an hour longer, and pick them up earlier to make up for it tomorrow”. On the other hand, playing with legos for an afternoon holds its own bliss. Nevertheless, if you also want to fit in some time to yourself, between family and work, you have to be inventive.

Therefore, although I do it in my head frequently because I stubbornly still think of myself as the same person before having them, isn’t really fair to compare my life now with what I had when I was in uni; especially when it comes to my approach to how I spent my time.

How I spent my time since I had the twins

In the first year after I had the twins, this severely restricted my worktime, obviously. I limited myself to “only” selling thread, which was difficult enough to fit in during that time and felt like a big achievement.
Things constantly got better, and I gained more and more time to allocate as I saw fit as they grew older. In their second year, book art was back in my life, and as they grew I went on to invite into my life printmaking, writing, paper mache, more and more teaching…

But somehow life didn’t get more relaxed. If anything, I feel more stressed out and on a schedule as ever. There are these small shfits: they started to go to nursery, at first three mornings a week. Then every workday in the morning. Then school started and they were out of the house even more every day. (Something I both like and dislike. It’s funny really, how I am relieved when I close the door on them in the morning, and look forward to seeing them again in the afternoon. – And after just 2h I am glad when M. takes over. But that’s a different story.)
All this time I kind of waited to experience once again this feeling of possibility I felt on the last day of school before the summer holidays: six incredible weeks ahead of me (three months even after the first year of uni, the unknown time span between handing in my thesis and a possible employment), of which I didn’t know how to fill them yet. All duties off the table. – Oh the things you can do, the places you can go!

I have not felt like this in a long, long time. A part of it may be that with kids around, duties never stop. Even when you go on vacation, you always take your daily duties with you. Maybe this feeling will come back when the kids leave the house to go off on a life of their own. I heard a radio feature last autumn, about this weird empty feeling parents experience even if (maybe especially if) they were looking forward to a life with less caring and responsibilities.

Although I didn’t have this large chunk of time to fill, my growing children give me more and more opportunities to re-arrange my time. Last year I took up learning Japanese, and I am still on it. So apparently I have more time to spare than I usually realise and admit to myself. The moment my schedule relaxes, I fill it. And I suppose that’s what we all do. At least all we who complain about too few time in general.

But there is something else at work for me here, and I am not sure it’s a good thing: I have been complaining about not having enough time for printmaking for a long time. Why on earth did I pick up Japanese? Why didn’t I fill my time with more printmaking instead of learning a difficult language without a sliver of a chance to ever going to where it is spoken? I can’t really say, and I often doubt myself. Am I self sabotaging my success? Am I a workaholic who can’t bear a moment’s rest (I have been accused of this)? Because the crux is: once I picked up another thing, there’s another thing to stress about. Two years ago, when I finally had my 20 minutes of time with Matthias before going to bed, I would stress about not having made my books, not having made a book, not having drawn enough, not having written enough, and that next lesson that still needs to be prepared. Now I can add not having gone through my vocabularly-learning to that list.

I admit it here and now: Despite all the doubts it is frequently causing me, much of the time I am proud of doing many things, following more than one path. And sometimes it does give me a sense of achievement. But in equal measure I feel like I am failing in all these pursuits. I frequently feel that I have to apologize, defend myself, for not concentrating and then excelling in that one thing that is – I don’t know – my true calling, maybe.

When talking to teachers and other parents at school, I stress that I am working full time – hoping that it counts as an apology for not volunteering to help raise funds, or helping at school outings and cake sales.

When talking to printmakers, I feel the sting of not having touched ink in months. “It’s not a lack of ideas, or actually lack of will or joy in the process,” I would try to explain, “I really wasn’t able to find the time.”
“Yeah, we know”, they’d answer, “it’s like that for all of us.
“But I am also a writer, book artist, teacher, and sole trader,” I’d say apologetically, and probably sound like a pretentious asshole.

When talking to writers, I tend to add that in my “day job” I am a self-exploiting entrepreneur, thinking to myself that if I could keep up a practise of daily writing up, my writing would sound more refined already.

While entering vocabulary to the app on my phone a voice tells me that if only I could keep a daily sketching practise, then I would be a better artist.

If I had stuck with my daily yoga, I’d be healthier. And if I managed to actually attend all my martial arts classes, and practise at home at least every other day, then I had already reached blue and white belt like the guys I started with. Not to speak of my gym membership that I – quite the stereotype – don’t make proper use of.

If only I read more, I’d be a better writer.

If I changed my product images more often and adjusted tags more frequently (or at all), then I’d be a more successful seller.

If I want to be a book artist, I need to make a proper book again.

If I want to make more income as a teacher on skillshare, I should post a new class every month.

If only I decided and concentrated on thing alone, then I would be a more successful, more useful, and generally better person.

And yet, beside all the self-beating, the moment the next new thing comes up, I feel unable to avoid it. It starts by just having a look. Then ordering a book, and more often than not, I find myself learning a whole new area/thing.

When I start something, I am learning quickly and rapidly, and in my enthusiasm I have disappointed more than one teacher who thought that I was very talented and I’d take up their subject for good. – But then the next good thing came along. For example my instrument teacher, who gifted me instruments and a fair share of his time. – He such an amazing teacher.

I went in to the office of the “Musikschule Telgte” on day. It must have been 1992 or thereabouts. – In Germany pretty much every town has a “Musikschule” where, for relatively little money as it is subsidized by the communities, children can learn to play various instruments. You buy memberships like in sports clubs. So I went into the office and explained:
“I would like to learn the play the Guitar. But is there a way that I could buy single lessons rather than pay for a full membership?”

The head teacher was surprise. “Why?” he asked.

I went on to explain, that I had taught myself to play the Guitar from a book, and I was stuck and really only needed a little help to get going again. After picking up the flute, piano, clarinette one after the other and then dropping it again after a while, my parents had decided not to pay for membership for me anymore. So if I wanted any lessons, I’d have to pay for them myself. And really, I only needed a few lessons…

And then he decided he’d teach me himself. Now, he was a fully educated musician. Private lessons would normally have been expensive. I didn’t understand at that time how much of a discount he was giving me. I think, he carefully judged how much to charge so that I felt like I paid for my education. I don’t remember how much I paid. I think something like 15 DM which is like nothing.

He provided so much support and time, taught me a lot, not just about the guitar, and encouraged my musical exploration in any way. He had been so sure that I’d apply for admittance at a conservatoire that he never asked. When I mentioned in passing that I had enlisted for physics, and wouldn’t see him again because I’d move to Göttingen in the summer, he seemed hurt. I do have a somewhat bad conscience when I think back.

One of my maths teachers organized me a master’s position without asking me, sure that that was what I wanted – only to learn that I had organized one myself – in a different mathematical area with another professor.
Probably I disappointed my parents, by not excelling at that one thing. I definitely disappointed my grandparents for not becoming a vicar…

Now, it’s not like I give things up easily. I like to stick with things, see them through. But I tend to pick up more and more things. And at some point it happens that I just can’t fit more into my life. There are things that I almost deliberately gave up or forgot to pursue further, like making chocolates (I got really good at it to the point where I briefly thought of turning that into a business). There are other things, like playing instruments, that I miss. And yet other things, like making blank books, that make me feel chased because I have trouble fitting them in.

What I am trying to say, I guess is: I am constantly starting new things, doing a lot simultaneously, and maybe over all that finish too little. Maybe that is part of my feeling of lack of time?

Grayson Perry, Playing to the Gallery

And now for something completely different. I promise it will make sense later that I fit this in here.

I just finished reading Grayson Perry’s “Playing to the Gallery”. And I love that book. At every other sentence, at least in the first chapters, I want to say “yes!”, “exactly!”, or “I wish I had had this thought!”

So, when I indicated that this is a review, then I was lying, because mostly what I will be doing is extracting some quotes from it.

What I like about the book is that it focuses on thinking, an active process, rather than its results. And thus it encourages the reader to find their own position rather than assuming Perry’s. He does explain his opinion in all of this, but the book is pickled in pondering, wondering, questioning. He is keener to explain the thoughts that went through his head before assuming one position than defending it.

The first quote is from the introduction:

“The art world needs people to asking it questions, and thinking about those questions helps the enjoyment and understanding of art.”

Grayson Perry, Playing to the Galler

His style of writing is entertaining, surprisingly and pleasantly easy, intelligent, and generally just a joy to read. And what also counts as a plus: it is short. Its 120 pages can easily be read in one day if you’ve got the time, or over the course of two weeks if you are short on time like me.

Each chapter comes not only with a title but also with a short summary. This is for chapter one:

What is quality, how might we judge it, whose opinion counts, and does it even matter any more?

The chapter is called “democracy has bad taste”, and he starts off with explaining why and how democracy has bad taste. Or at least why it is unfair, elitist, and racist to make the (aesthetic) appeal of art our (only) measure of whether it is good: In short because humans have a tendency to like what they know. And we know the work of Western white males.

He goes on to suggest several other ways to judge, and also describes how he believes a consensus on what is good can be found. All very interesting.

The second chapter talks about:

What counts as art? Although we live in an era when anything can be art, not everything qualifies.

This is a question I have thought about myself long and hard. And unsurprisingly I find this chapter the most interesting.

In Germany there is a strict legal dividing line between craft and art. So maybe it reflects my being German that, although I enjoy and appreciate the seemingly unquestioning inclusiveness that I encountered in British and American culture of letting all artisans call themselves artists, it does not reflect my inner belief. And while I think I am an artist, I do not think that all I make, not all my bookbinding is art.

In chapter two I found a couple of quotes that hit me right in the heart, some because I agreed with them, some because I feel challenged by them. I’ll just list them for your pleasure and entertainment without further comments. But I’d be happy to discuss any of them in the comments!:

“art has become […] permeable, translucent, fuzzy… A good example of this fuzziness for me was when Loyalist terrorist Michael Stone charged into the Northern Ireland Parliament in Stormont carrying a viable explosive device. […] In court he downplayed his actions by saying […]it was all a piece of performance art. I think it shows that art has become so associated with shock rather than beauty that it seemed a plausible defence for an act of terror.”

This is a relatively common tactic in recent years, where someone declares whatever they fancied doing anyway as art to somehow lend it kudos.

Grayson Perry, Playing to the Gallery

When some people embark on doing something that they fail massively at they call it an ‘art project’. […] You know that often someone who’s not very good at making television programmes becomes a video artist, and someone who’s not particularly good at writing hit songs becomes an art band.

I’m coming to realize that in many ways I am a conceptual artist masquerading as a craftman: I employ traditional media like pottery and tapestry and etching in a teasing, reactionary way. But I enjoy correcting people when they suggest my dressing up in women’s clothes is part of my art. Recently a video artist suggested that a series I had done for TV was art. I replied, ‘No, it’s telly, I made it with telly values in mind.’

The forth chapter has the subtitle: “Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before?” My favourite passage is this:

[…] the arguments that you hear now in bars between artists, they’re not going to be about abstract expression versus surrealists, they’re not going to be about video installationists versus giant photo peddlers. No, no, no. They’re going to be between worthy activists and ironic market sell-outs.

And I am currently on the last pages of the last chapter: “How do I become a contemporary artist?” He tries a first answer right in the first paragraph:

I could say: ‘Well, you just say you are one and start doing something,’ but I think it is more complex than that.

As you might know, this is pretty much what I did in my own biography: first deciding “I am now a working artist”, and then starting to think about what that means. Therefore it is not difficult to guess that this chapter is hardest to read and swallow for me. Despite this, I do tend to agree with many ideas presented here. Mainly he is talking about how self-doubt and self-positioning within the art world is an important part of being an artist. He does mention outside art, but doesn’t leave a doubt that although the work produced by outsider artists might be very moving and beautiful, they are not part of what he perceives as “the art world”. And to be fair, he ruled out these criteria for (good) art in the first chapters.

To problematic part of this chapter is, I think, and in a way that makes it a problem of this whole book and the ideas presented therein: He says, a few exceptions granted, artists have to have gone through art school, have to have felt the companionship at art school. Then they might gain acknowledgement from their peers, then from critics, then maybe from the wider art market, and that then makes their work good art.

But that means, that in the end, art is made by this elitist club and pretty much self-propels itself. And while this might be an acurate description of what IS happening, it is not what I hope for and consider the right was of looking at it.

Anyway, what’s my opinion against his. The passage that hit me hardest can be found half way through the chapter. He quotes John constable as saying: “These self-taught artists were taught by a very ignorant person.”

Let me give you a few more quotes from this chapter:

The essential thing one learns at art college is difficult to condense. I think the most important thing is being exposed to a certain sensibility, of what it’s like to be an artist. You’re a trainee bohemian and you’re there with fellow travellers on this journey, with facilities and tutuors on hand. This feeling of being among kindred spirits is vitally important and one I find very moving. In this book I’ve mocked the pomposities and joked about the contradictions of the art world, but it’s been like teasing a dear friend because in reality, when I joined the art world, it felt more like arriving in Kansas than in Oz.

Skills are really important to learn; the better you get at a skill, the more you have confidence and fluency. I like the idea of “relaxed fluency” when you get into the zone and you’ve done your 10.000 hours and you’ve become really skillful.

I think one of the best descriptions of that process comes from Arno Mikkinen, a Finnish photographer. He came up with the Helsinki Bus Station Theory in 2004. He said that when you are leaving art college and you choose your style and what path in the art world you’re going to take, it’s like going to Helsinki bus station. There are about twenty bus platforms and maybe ten buses leave from each platform, and you choose your bus and you get on the bus. And each stop is a year in your career. And after about three stops you get off and you walk into a gallery and you show them your work and the people look at it and they go, ‘Oh, very nice, very nice. Reminds me a bit of Martin Parr though.’ And you go’Uurrrrgh!! I’m not original, I’m not unique,’ and you get really cross. So you get a taxi back to the bus station and you get on a different bus. And of course what happens is the same thing. What you need to do, says Arno Mikkinen, is stay on the fucking bus!

Losing a be

Now after this interlude, I am back to talking about myself and my biography. Reading the book by Perry, and his thoughts about art being what artists do, artists being, who make art, and thus you can just declare your works as art and yourself as being an artist, but that’s not really working, you have to go through art school kind of thing. Then the “just call it art if it is not proper craft” kind of thoughts, I couldn’t stop thinking about my own becoming of an artist.

Finishing my Phd, I was in a bad place mentally. Luckily we were living in Berlin where odd behaviour might almost have been seen as normal. Even Matthias thought I was crazy, I think. I’ll be eternally amazed and grateful for him not walking away then. Well, it might be true that I had a few crazy moments.
One of my problems was that I didn’t know what to do with myself and my life. I had embarked already on several paths to a career and failed to have one so far, and the pressure to finally find out what I was going to be now that I was grown up was getting imbearbly high.

With my PhD I had taken a gamble, and it was becoming more and more clear that I was losing my bet:

Normally when people in Germany started a PhD at that time (things have changed a little since then), they had a Diploma and to get that, among other things, you had to write a thesis, and most people went on to do a PhD and then have a career in the subject they worked in for their diploma.

I didn’t have a Diploma. I had studied to become a teacher, and in doing that I had only done half as many hours and courses in maths as a diploma student (the other half was spent on half as many hours in Theology compared to those who want to become a vicar). The thesis I wrote for my teacher’s degree didn’t include original research. You could get a Diploma without doing original research but to study for a PhD yours better should have had some.

Now you’d think that at least I would continue to work in the field I had written my thesis in. But while writing my thesis (in algebraic geometry), I stumbled across another field (symplectic geometry) which sounded so very interesting. And so I applied for a PhD in the field of symplectic geometry. It just so happened, that the graduate school where I was offered the scholarship had both a professor for algebraic geometry and one for symplectic geometry who’d both wanted to work together in the groundbreaking, en vogue field of mirror symmetry which uses both areas of research but no-one really knew how anything works yet. And they decided to jointly offer me a position in that area.

If you don’t know much about mathematics, it probably sounds like algebraic and symplectic geometry are similar fields. After all, they are both called “geometry”. But they are not. Not at all. They employ structurally very different methods.

A very fitting comparrison would be that it is like studying Arabic and English – at least they are both languages. And working in Mirror Symmetry would be exactly like writing an Arabic-English/English-Arabic dictionary.

And now comes the really bad thing: I didn’t really know any modern algebraic geometry either. What I had been looking at for my thesis was already decades old stuff, and since then important new methods were used. I found them difficult and boring, and one of the reason I had wanted to change subject was to avoid having to learn all this. Aehem.

I knew all that before I started. I was drawn in to trying this topic by the very fact that it would be extremely difficult. I had two PhD advisors who both only knew half of the game, neither of them were really at home in what I was trying to do. I had to learn pretty much two areas of mathematics from scratch. It was a gamble: If I’d be able to proof something interesting, anything, really, then that would pretty much guarantee a career in academia. If I didn’t, well, it might well be I’d fail completely.

The other thing that drew me in was that it was new to me. I was eager to learn, all of it after having worked only for others in my time as a school teacher, and the first year was really great. Then it began to dawn on me that I might have taken on a task that was too much for me. For the first time I hit a road block where I felt that I really wasn’t smart enough. Before then, I had always thought that if I just put enough time and energy into it, I can do anything. That had been my experience. It had been true, whether it’d be learning a language or horse riding, or to play the piano. But now I experienced my intellectual limits. An experience that I am very thankful for in retrospect, it changed me profoundly, and my attitude toward learning and toward other people.

But at the time it was soul crushing.

Ways out

I somehow finished my thesis of which I wasn’t very proud. It fell short of what I set out to do, and I wasn’t sure of myself anymore. The hardest part for me was that it was so hard to make people understand what was going on; I hardly understood it myself. I tried to talk about it with a councillor. He told me: But you are much smarter than the average population. You have a PhD in maths, what else do you want?! – And apparently he thought that was all there was to say about it. He wanted to talk more about my childhood, and I crashed out of therapy. Instead I went on to be a tiny bit crazy for a while.

I started thinking about jobs with a clammy feeling of having to step into some sort of life trap. I applied for jobs and went to the job interviews.

I applied for jobs in school book publishing houses. With much wringing of hands and much doubt about whether I was doing the right thing, I rejected a job offer.

I applied for jobs in libraries. – I didn’t get an offer.

I applied for jobs at insurance companies. I got one offer to attend an assessment centre and rejected with doubts about whether I was self-harming myself. – But pretty sure I wasn’t up for working in an environment like that.

And while doing all this, life went on: I married, I started making books. When Matthias suggested, I might do that as a career it seemed like an outrageous idea, too good to be true.

I started to investigate that possibility and, well, we all know where that lead me. But something else happened along the way. It wasn’t just that I was making things with my hands now. Or that I had found my true self in what I was doing. Although I thought it was that at the time.

At some point I simply decided: I am an artist. It felt and still feels pretentious to say it and at the same time it is absolutely liberating: Because artists, — well, let me put it like this: If a mathematician calculating risks for an insurance company feels like she has to sit in a dark room for hours, shutting out the world’s noise, then that’s crazy. When an artist does that, well, it might be performance art, or just what he/she needs to do to get inspired. Artists can do a lot of things and get away with it. While others doing the same thing would be called a nutjob.

And so I went from being a little crazy and feeling absolutely shit about it, to being a little quirky and being fine with that. And it just so happened that the bad-crazy moments get fewer and fewer and I believe by now they have stopped. But others have to be the judge of that.

The connection to the quotes above should become clearer by now. The doubt of whether what I am doing here is a form of “Etikettenschwindel”, a case of false labelling, has never gone away. The nagging thought of whether I needed more or another education isn’t going away. And reading Perry’s thoughts on art education just stirred up these old questions.

In the begining I seriously pondered a bookbinder craft education. I also thought about going back to university to study art. Nowadays I often wonder whether I should go to uni to study creative writing or printmaking, or maybe fine art after all?

But my best education and the best progress in any field I have had when following my own schedules, rather than going through set course-work. Certainly with self-organized help here and there. Asking people questions is an important part of self-education, it is not like you don’t have any teachers just because you are self-educated. Despite the quote that Grayson Perry cited, I do believe you can teach yourself successfully. But it might work better for some than for others.

Grayson Perry critically remarks: Anything can be art. For me that meant: As an artist, I can do anything. I can learn anything, do anything, and it can be part of my work as an artist. I don’t have to pidgeon hole myself any further than that. And in calling myself an artist, I don’t have to restrict myself in any way.


But am I a real artist? Or am I an outside artist, who doesn’t really belong? Or am I maybe no artist at all except in my own imagination? This doubt always remains.

I came acrosss the buzzword multipotentialite recently. I should say I came across it again. When I first heard about it, I was just like: yadi-yadi-ya, aren’t we all like that?

I have this instant gut-reaction to a description of how a certain group of people are: memes about intoverts are doing the rounds, and how they see the world like that, or should be treated like this. Sometimes its women against men, sometimes it is right hemisphere against left hemisphere, and so on. I don’t really believe in such categorizations. And when I first saw a TED talk given by Emilie Wapnick, it seemed like just another of those stupid categorizations, in this case multipotentialites versus specialists. And like with all those other categorizations, it seemed like just an opportunity to give yourself a label that made you look like a somewhat better human. Like when people yapp about left handed people being more creative or whatnot. Bullsh…

I came across it again very recently, and I still have this instinctal reaction to it, this slight gagging reaction. Mostly I just hate, to put any sticker on myself. But… the problems and issues described by people who self-identify as multipotentialites were too similar to my own doubts and problems to completely ignore this. Actually, especially when I read not about how wonderful this is, but about which life-long problems people who self-identify as multipententialites had, I could identify with a lot of what was being said.

I am not saying I am a multipotentialite because a) all humans have multiple potentials; it is one of the human traits that we can learn all kinds of things throughout our lives. And if everyone is a multipotentialite, then this it doesn’t make sense as a defining thing, b) I think it sounds pretentious, and c) I don’t want to freedom taken away from me of not being it, d) it sounds like a condition that needs curing.

Looking it up on Wikipedia, the list of risks includes: Burnout. Ouch.

Coming full circle

And that made me think of my time issues again. This chased feeling I can’t shake off even for short periods of time. My feeling of failing in everything that I am trying to do and be,…

I thought of my difficulties with talking about my job. When people ask me what I do, I usually answer: “Too much, I generally do too much.”

But maybe the solution to all this is different and much easier than thinking about multipots, and what art means, and how we find validation. In Michael Ende’s book “Momo” (aka “time thieves”) people tried to save time and be time efficient, but the more successful there were at that, the less time they had.
I think there’s a deeper thruth to that. Just the other day, while I was walking briskly through the city to go to the bus station, starting to get out of breath, I deliberately slowed my pace. The buses are running every 10 mintutes. If I didn’t make this one and had to take the next, I’d lose 10 minutes. – I even caught it in the end, didn’t lose any time, but felt much more relaxed when I got home.

Maybe I equate success too much with productivity. I don’t know.

2 replies on “A long post without photos. My Thoughts about Time, Art, my Life Choices”

  1. Nice thoughtful piece.
    People often ask me how I get so much done, while I am usually thinking of all the things I didn’t finish. While all humans have multiple potentials, I think some of us are sometimes a little too good at too many things. When I was finishing secondary school and trying to figure out what I wanted to study in University, my mother said “It was easier when I was young. I could get married, I could become a nurse and then get married, or I could become a teacher and then get married.” (She did the last one.)
    What nobody ever told me is that the choice you make does not have to be for your whole life. I have had several careers. Sometimes the change came because a more interesting alternative appeared, sometimes the change was due to health limitations. I have never regretted the choices I have made. Everything I have learned on my own or been taught by others, whether formally or informally, has been useful one way or another.
    What I have really been all my life is a maker. You can substitute the word ‘artist’. I have made things since I was very small. It is both what I do and who I am. I cannot function properly unless I am making things. When my rheumatoid arthritis was uncontrolled, I at least got some satisfaction from preparing food that both looked and tasted good.
    I have had ‘normal’ jobs that gave me some of the same satisfactions that creating artwork does: geological draughtsman, costume designer in professional theatre, copy editor. In those jobs I could look back on my day and say “I made that.” There was a visible product resulting from my labour.
    I am cutting back on the number of things I say “Yes” to, whether it is an idea of my own or a request from someone else. Time —a lifespan— is finite, so eventually one does have to cut back on some things. ; ]

    1. Hello Cathryn,
      thanks for reading and for your comments! I am a wee bit envious and definitely in awe of your jobs in so many different professions and the adventurous spirit this speaks of. I knew you were a weaver once, and I had an idea that was not the only thing you had been doing, but I wasn’t aware that your professional past was so varied!

      That notion that it is/was easier with less choice, I can fully associate with that. I had the thought before, that I felt: I could have dealt with just getting in my parents’ profession if I had to; like it used to be for centuries in Europe. Then again, doing only that… It *is* great that we have the freedom to choose. We just need proper support, and our young people need the right support in making their way. I am not at all sure they are getting the help they need.

      And indeed, if someone had told me at the crisis points in my life: You don’t have to make a choice for the rest of your life! Just think about what you want to do in the next year, in the next 3 years maybe… That would have been a great relief, too.

      I had a chat with my son just the other day, pretty much about exactly that. After having heard the TED talk I linked to in the post, and its negativity about the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up.” I told him him: “You know how you always say you can’t decide whether you want to be a teacher or a writer. – You do know that you can do both if you really want to, right?”
      He: “Oh, like you do?! Then I also want to be a farmer and an astronaut.”
      😀 We’ll see…
      It’s hard to not restrict young people in their ambitions and at the same time not prepare them for the hardship that might be required if you really want to do something. Telling them they can be anything, but not without working for it.

      And you are right. It’s easy to forget that we can’t live forever as long as we are feeling well. I helped clear out my grand-aunt’s flat after she died unexpectedly aged 98. – She had several packages of unopened bed linen in her wardrobe, new enough to think that they were not only forgotten: She had prepared for needing new ones in the next years, I suppose. She was stocking other stuff, things that were presumably meant as gifts and all such things. My grandmother commented with a shaking of heads: “She must have thought she’d live forever.” – It might have felt that way!

      I hope, however, you won’t cut away too much too soon 🙂 I too much enjoy seeing your books and your art, and reading your instructions on your blog 🙂


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