April 26, 2017

Last week I sold my art at a festival. Actually, I should probably say I displayed my art - there wasn't much buying or selling happening at my booth. I could blame that on a lot of things: it was mostly a family/children's festival so people were there for the free activities rather than the shopping, maybe my prices were too high or my booth was set up poorly or my art just wasn't good. And I can't say I didn't think about all those possibilities because I did. But more importantly than those thoughts was the thought that, I didn't mind. I didn't leave feeling crushed. I was really proud of myself and happy with the part of myself I put out there that day.

Lately I've been thinking about why all this is so important to me, why I care so much about making art. As always, it's a good creative outlet for me. One that makes me really happy to explore. On top of that, I found this great quote from Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?): 

"We have eyes, and we're looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important."

That struck a big, deep chord with me. I love choosing art to have in our home. I love that everything we have makes me feel something good. I want to make things that mean something, mean anything, to anyone. 

Okay so that quote had been running through my head for a few weeks. Then that day at the festival a cute little boy came up to my booth and started looking at some of my paintings. He asked me, "Are these Eric Carle?" I thought I heard him wrong, but then his mom goes, "Oh, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar? No honey, these are *and she picked up one of my cards to read my name* Erin van de Graaff." And I could have burst into tears. I told him yes, these were my paintings, but I was so so happy they reminded him of Eric Carle! Like, what in the world!? I never would have seen any similarity - and I still don't, really. But for some reason that little boy did, and the whole thing just felt like the universe was giving me a little smile and a nod. You know those moments?

So often I'll get down on myself and think, "a million people are already out there making art. they've been doing it longer than I have and they're better than i am. why am I doing this?" Because there is literally an infinite amount of art to be made! The art that's out there being made by other people - it isn't mine. It could even look almost exactly like mine, but it still wouldn't be. So I have to remind myself of that a lot - that there is room out there for what I make, even if I have to make space for it on my own wall.

I'm really trying to stick with it this time. I've been giving it such a half effort. You know those quotes like, "a year from now you'll wish you started today" - that's how I feel. I dread thinking about where I could be right now if I had really stuck with my art the first time I started. I don't want to feel that anymore! This feeling that it's an important thing to do has been stuck with me far too long. I'm a firm believer that feelings like this one shouldn't be ignored, even if you don't totally understand them. 

So I'm going to keep moving! If you want to see my most recent stuff, it's up in my Etsy shop! Click the link a the top of the page that says SHOP, or click RIGHT HERE. If you ever have suggestions, requests, ideas, advice, questions - I would love to hear it! You can always leave a comment or find my email address on my ABOUT page. 


April 25, 2017

I wrote this over a month ago, but never posted it. I've read it a few times since writing it, and every time I think, "this is a good reminder." I seriously need to be reminded of it constantly!

. . . . .

I've been thinking about phases lately. For the past.. while.. I've struggled with some things that might seem so silly. Maybe I'm not struggling so much as really letting these things bother me. 

It has been bothering me how late Stefan and I sleep in every morning. Our days begin really slowly - one of us gets up with Peter while the other one exercises. We seriously let Peter wake us up almost every day. Our day doesn't really begin - we've eaten, showered, we're ready to go - until about nine-thirty. I am not kidding you! And actually I usually don't even get ready until Peter goes down for a nap so by nine-thirty I probably mean ten. So, we're slow movers in the morning. And I've caught myself thinking so many times, "This is ridiculous. Everyone else in the world is starting their day so much earlier! I'm sure they get more done, have more energy, and are all around better people than we are!"

But the past few days I've been thinking about it a different way. And don't get me wrong, I guarantee we would still benefit from getting ourselves into gear a bit more quickly every morning. But lately I've been thinking how this is most likely just a brief phase of life for us. Stefan gets to work from home right now, we only have one baby, our baby is my only real job. But someday Stefan may have to wake up early to make it to an office for work, we'll have more kids and they'll need to get to school, I might have another job. So I feel like right now I should try to enjoy these things that might be gone someday - the slow mornings, the few demands on my schedule, the extra time to see Stefan during the day.

I've been thinking about phases in another kind of way, too. Sometimes I think about experiences in my life that had a huge impact on me but only last a brief amount of time, and I almost feel silly that they mean so much. As if the only things allowed to change your life have to last at least a year or two. 

I worked at Disney World for less than four months. I have friends who started the same day I did and never left - four years later they still get to be in the happiest place on earth every day. So I know they know more about the parks and the job and all things Disney than I do. But those four months taught me so much about myself and what I can do and hard work and fun work and not fun work and working with others, others who sometimes are really really really different from you. When I go back to visit Disney World, it feels like coming home. And I used to think that was so dumb. But I don't anymore. I'm letting myself value that big, but brief experience - as more time passes, it seems to mean even more to me. That comes up in life a lot, I think - the little or short or trivial things end up meaning the most.

I feel the same way about our time in Chicago - we only lived there ten months. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to tell people that - like it's so lame we didn't even last a year. But in those ten months, we found out my mom had breast cancer and got to be close while she went through her surgeries and recovery. We had a baby, and we figured out how to live in a whole new environment. We made really great friends and we kept learning about ourselves and each other and what we can do independently and what we can do together and how in the world to take care of a baby did I mention we had a baby? So, yeah, Chicago means a lot to me. Maybe I wasn't born and raised there, but maybe that doesn't matter.

One of the hardest things for me to do is not wish I was in a different place - a different phase. I'm always looking back or looking ahead. Sometimes that's fine and necessary and healthy, but it's also really good and important for me to learn to look at where I am right now. And not worry about proving anything about it to anyone else. Just see the good in it, and enjoy it for what it is. Because it's probably only a phase.

Peter regularly smashing strawberries into the carpet.. just a phase, right?


April 24, 2017

It feels like the fact that I can be quiet/introverted/whatever you want to label it has been coming up a lot lately. I was talking about it with a group of people a few days ago, and we had a pretty open conversation. We were talking about all our similarities and differences in that area - there was a lot of understanding and no judgements. It felt.. safe? Which was interesting and really cool because I was talking with people a lot younger than I am. I left feeling comfortable with myself. But since then, somehow, kind of all the sudden, it's like the more this personality trait is brought up, the more aware of it I am and the more self-conscious about it I feel.

Not long after that good conversation, I'm fairly positive I experienced some real social anxiety for the first time. Anxiety. I was surrounded by a lot of people, very few of whom I knew well, very many of whom I let intimidate me. The entire time I wanted to shrink up inside myself and disappear, and I haven't felt that in a really long time - if ever. No, I think I had felt it. Or something really close to it, but not for a long time. The whole drive home that night, I replayed moments in my mind I wished I could go back and change. Except not even that, because I definitely didn't want to go back and experience them again at all. I guess they were moments I wished I could just erase.

Whyyy am I like this? Why am I so terrible at meeting people and introducing myself and making friends? I really don't know. I guess I wanted to write this as a first step in figuring it out. One thing I have noticed, is that if I'm with someone who is the complete opposite of me in this way - someone who is comfortable in these situations and immediately everyone's friend - I let them take the lead while I sink backward because I know I could never keep up with them so why even try.

I feel like I'm a sometimes-extroverted introvert. Because if I'm in the right mood, with the right people, I can do it. I feel like I was way better at it in high school and even early on in college. Maybe because I was more sure of who I was back then. I've thought about this a lot. I lived in the same small town from the time I was born to when I moved away for college. I feel like I was working on myself that whole time - who I was, what I did, who my friends were. I got to build and build on that identity for eighteen years, and then after a couple months in college I felt like I had lost it all. I was starting from scratch, and honestly I haven't felt as if I've had sure footing in that regard ever since. A lot of things go into that, I think. My life has had so many changes and so little consistency the last few years. And while a whole lot of good has come from that, a clear self-identity hasn't been part of it. So maybe that's why I'm not comfortable around other people, because I'm not comfortable with myself. Does that make sense? Have I come full circle yet?

Hm. I wish I had a way to tie this up neatly. But maybe if anyone reading this feels the same way you can send me some tips. And if you read to the end of this looking for tips.. whoops!