'Things will slow down once the school year ends,' I thought. And they did for a week or so. During that time, I made multiple attempts to sit down, reflect and write about the amazing but busy spring I had. Of course, my brain was much more interested in bingeing on Netflix so writing remained on the back burner. In came summer and well, now it's Labor Day...
So where have I been since my last love note on March 29, 2018??
Here's the thing, as busy – no, let me stop there because I hate the word busy. We're all “busy” and a brilliant article I read years ago articulates why we must stop the “glorification of being busy." So instead, I haven't been “busy” but I have been living my life the best way I know how by filling up my days with exciting work, passion projects and somehow still managing to see the people I love and travel the world. Somehow in the last 5 months, completely free days with absolutely nothing planned have disappeared and while I'm tired, real tired, I have also never been happier.
I don't remember the first time I heard the quote, “work hard, play hard” but I know it resonated with me and over the last few years, I've changed it just slightly, “work hard, play harder.” I don't want to get down on anybody's work ethic and if people want to work 60+ hour work weeks and pride themselves on taking no personal days, that's their prerogative. I too, have had work weeks that look like that, sparingly – thank God – but I think it's not uncommon for us, and by us I really just mean Americans, to overwork. That being said, I am not in the camp of people who work super hard now so that some day when I'm “retired” (hahahah retirement is a hilarious concept for an artist) I can enjoy life. No, I am going to work hard and enjoy life any and EVERY chance I get right now! People are often saying to me, 'you're traveling again!?' 'I'm so envious of how much you travel!' 'Where are you off to next?' Truth be told, I do always have my next vacation planned. It's not always to some exotic country, in fact, mostly I stay right here in the continental U.S. but I think the only way I survive my day-to-day life filled to the brim with all the things, is by getting out and taking a breather. Mostly because I don't know how to take a breather when I'm here in Milwaukee, here at home.
So where have I been literally, other than Milwaukee since March? Los Angeles, Appleton, Boston, Guadalajara, (Mexico), Door County, a road trip through South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and Minnesota, 24 hours in New York and then on to Spain to sit on a beach in Sitges with one of my best friends and roam the streets with my younger brother in Barcelona. And last night just before midnight I got back from one last summer weekend getaway in Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave. Life, I think, is just plain better when you fill it with adventures.
That sums up my travel life over the last five months. I basically made sure that at least one weekend a month if not more (i.e, two whole weeks in August) I was not in Milwaukee. For me, this is essential because even though I wasn't finding time to write about all that was happening, time away always gives me the perspective – that wide angle view of what I have been up to. Travel in many instances has helped me make the necessary changes in my life so that I don't just get wrapped up in the every day or get into a routine that is not serving me just because it's easier.
This is a good time to transition into telling you about my exciting career shift. For the last two years in Milwaukee, I have been focusing on teaching. I had a lot of teaching and education experience under my belt before I got here so it was natural to get connected with various arts education programs. And I have truly loved teaching here. It has been an amazing way to get to know a city by traveling to different schools, neighborhoods and connecting with a whole bunch of different kids! And many of my students were not shy to tell me about their experience of and thoughts about Milwaukee – their frustrations with the ongoing racism and small-mindedness that happens here, their lack of safety and fear of violence but also the things they love and the hope that it will get better coupled with their determination to contribute to make their home somewhere they can confidently be proud to live in. Teaching has been inspiring, eye opening and has given me much needed hope for our future. And I will continue to always have a hand in teaching but after this school year, I knew something had to change. I was basically a full-time teacher without any of the benefits. I was in multiple schools and at times, I couldn't even remember some of my student's names because there were just too many to remember. My car became a storage locker for supplies for my students. And while everything is fairly close in Milwaukee, the time driving to all these different schools still takes time and may I point out, no one pays for commute time. It was wearing me down and in some instances, I don't think I was teaching at my best which filled me with guilt and disappointment in myself. So the search for a job that would help me take a break from the classroom commenced.
I got lucky and in one month three jobs opened up that I was extremely interested in. Almost immediately, I got two job offers while there was radio silence on the third but most intriguing position (of course). Of course, I wasn't going to wait around for this third job, so I weighed my options on the other two. Both of the job offers were in education departments, one was a full-time with benefits position for an organization I was currently working for in a part-time capacity and another was for a part-time position contracted from May-October, no benefits. To many the full-time with benefits probably would be a no brainer. I looked at it differently. I have been freelancing for about five years and while benefits are a nice thing, I've survived without them. For me, my time is still a lot more valuable than slightly better healthcare than the one I have been paying out of pocket for. And again, retirement plans are hilarious and my morbid plan for retirement continues to be death. Seriously. Anyway, I looked at the numbers, and looked at them again. It was then I realized if I broke it down by hour, I'd make almost double in the part time job than I would for the full-time job. Sure, I'd still have to find other jobs to fill in the rest of my income but I wasn't worried about it because it's something that has come second nature to me over the last few years. Plus, it was a new organization and I figured it would be good to expand my network. I started, life was good and then the third job rang.
At this point, I'll be honest, I was a little irritated by this third job. I had applied in April, got a phone call in late May to schedule an interview in mid-June and they would tell me by end of June. What kind of insane timeline is that?! The answer: a city position timeline. But the job was exciting: Arts Project Coordinator for the Milwaukee Public Library and I would be coordinating projects under a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant at the Mitchell Street Branch. So I went into the interview curious and really with nothing to lose because I had a job and a plan for at least the next six months. The job interview went well – it was one of those rare moments where I felt really proud of all my experiences and confident that yes, I really did have what it takes to be awesome at this job. I walked home from the magical Central Public Library and had a major realization that this just might be my dream job and now I'd actually be disappointed if I didn't get it! But also, crap, this would mean I'd have to quit a job I just started and I've never done that before and stress, stress, stress!!!
Long story short, I got the job! I quit the other one – they were understanding and even supportive! Which wasn't surprising, in hindsight, but you just never know. Since mid-July I took on this new role with the library. It's exciting on so many levels. I get to help manage the communication between the artist-in-residence (who right now, is my friend and the AMAZING artist Erick Ledesma), the library and the partnering organizations; support all the artist programming; I am working with Artists Working in Education to put out an RFP for the next artist-in-residence and will be helping select the next one; I get to think strategically with two local artists Sonja Thomsen and Adam Carr to help them archive their public art project, Listening to Mitchell, so that it both has a physical and digital home at the library; I am creating a lecture/workshop series that is both for and about artists – meaning I get to bring in some really rad people to library and even give them some money to share their expertise and knowledge; next year I will support Ex Fabula and a Deaf Storytelling Festival and in general I get to ensure that the library is prioritizing art and supporting artists from all over the city. Of course, it's a job and it's not always easy. There's many different people working under this grant, meaning there's a lot of personalities, opinions and ideas to navigate. And probably the biggest challenge is getting the library, an institution who has never had programming like this before to be comfortable having programming like this now. Might I remind you of how long it took me to get hired... Overall, it's really exciting work and it's the perfect position where I feel like it's using so much of my skill set but it's still challenging in really rewarding ways.
The cherry on top, this new position with the library is 30 hours (but with health benefits, and vacation days and even, you guessed it, some retirement benefits!) which means I still get to teach but only a few classes of my choosing which is better for all involved. I am happy report that I will be teaching for Milwaukee Repertory Theater again both in and after school and there is another class at my favorite high school in Milwaukee that I'm working on figuring out as well. I'm exciting my teaching load will be manageable and also appreciative of the extra income!
And then there's all the other stuff that doesn't always pay me but makes my artist heart so so happy.
LUNA had it's first debut show back in August which was super exciting for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it felt good to finally do something major with this group after meeting for over a year. Second, the turn out to our show was absolutely incredible. Our opening was slated to be 7pm-10pm and at 6:45pm people were already starting to show up. The gallery was jam packed, with people spilling into the street until we had to tell everyone to go home at 10pm. It was so awesome to get that kind of support for our first show. In a really exciting turn of events, writer and art critic, Mary Louise Schumacher, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also came to our show which resulted in her interviewing us later and writing an amazing article about us. I'm still kind of flying high about the turn out, the press and can't wait for our next show which will be in October!
After two successful shows and a plug at FemFest, Heard Space performed at Summerfest during Children's Fest Day! It was the first time I ever got paid to perform and it was pretty exciting stuff. After that we took the rest of the summer off which I think was much needed for all of us. But our hiatus is coming to a close and we'll be meeting next week to plan for the plan and early 2019!
And last but certainly not least, We Heard We're Funny is still being silly every first and third Wednesdays of the month. It's still such a blast to do this show and we've talked for awhile how to make this into a real podcast and expand our listening audience! I would also love to see us do some live shows.
Stay tuned for updates on all!
And in the middle of all that, I celebrated two years of being in Milwaukee. I have to say this city has been real good to me. It's been a crazy and amazing journey but again, I am so so happy here. I have amazing people who have supported me not just as a friend but as an artist and professional. I can't believe it's almost fall but excited for the shift in seasons. I'm ready for this transition and open for all the new exciting things it will bring.
I can't promise when I will write next only that I will.
Until next time...