Monthly Archives: July 2013

Gabe’s parting words

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For close to two decades, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching as Beth has woven the unique tapestry of her life. Eschewing expectations and avoiding predictable paths, she has touched the lives of thousands of people in a positive way, on her own terms. As I have watched her buzz around, sometimes in the same apartment, sometimes from afar, I have often felt that she has not given herself credit for the immense amount of “good work” that she has done.

Well, I no longer have to be the silent witness. Bethbarbush.com is now in the world, and it is a stunning portrait of Beth’s life’s work thus far. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it is a concise overview of all the amazing things that Beth has participated in and created in her professional life. As I said at the beginning of the month, Beth’s work is not well represented by a paper resume and I think her website ably proves my claim. Even without her heart-felt written summaries, the photo galleries alone on her ePortfolio tell stories upon stories… and all those faces reflect the larger theme that Beth’s work is all about people.

This past month was full of unexpected personal challenges for Beth, and I hope that in some small way, having a large, logical problem to solve that involved reflection on personal achievements provided some comfort during this time.

While I am always glad to see Beth, I was particularly glad that she was able to visit me during the course of this chapter. We were able to wander memory lane together, and to hash out the themes that have guided our lives to this point: one which happens to be another major transition period for us both. I was there to watch her pour through books of symbols and runes, and she was able to see my scrapbooks… all eight of them.

Unlike Beth, my scrapbooks are not complete. The pieces are in place, but my handwritten notes are still to be finished. Like Beth’s ePortfolio, like our lives, they are still a work in progress.

Thank you, Beth, for inviting me to be part of this project. I hope that as you show off your website in years to come, you are reminded of me and this project, and how friends can always be there to be that little extra motivation that you may need.

the completion of beginnings

Is there really a symbol that could represent yourself or the work that you do? The Wild Card asked me this along with a slew of other intensive inner reflective questions this month. She also asked me to present visual ideas for this question and allow the Living Chapters audience to vote or select one that they thought might be a good representation my work.  Thanks to all of you who weighed in with your votes.

Here is how people voted:

The most amount of votes were cast for this symbol.

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Ironically this is a symbol that I gravitated to in my early years. It would pop up in many of my high school art projects, in letters that I wrote to friends, or doodles on classroom homework and folders. The eye image definitely has played a long-lasting role in my life representing the importance of being awake and being aware. Growing up, I felt that it stood for the ability to see what is right in front of you and emphasized the value of witnessing the world around you.

The second most voted for symbol was this one

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The Labyrinth

The labyrinth seems very suited to my winding path. Labyrinths are often mistaken for mazes or something that one could get lost within or frustrated with. Unlike mazes though, there are no real dead-ends in a labyrinth only paths that guide you forward. Meandering, yet structured routes, that lead to new destinations. I see labyrinths as tools that can be utilized to practice finding one’s way out of confusing situations. I’ve found myself doing that more than a few times in my work.

So what do I think?

The overall process of picking a personal symbol has been intriguing. As I noted before, I feel that it is near impossible for any one symbol or image to represent a body of work or in my case what feels like an ongoing evolving path as I build my career. So for this reason, I gravitated to less literally visual symbols. I preferred the linear images that were left open to interpretation but yet held a rich meaning.

The Labyrinth, which came in second in all the votes, also came in second when I made my personal votes. I decided that the labyrinth represented how I have moved on my path more than what the work I have done.

My first choice to represent my work is the Rune symbol of Inguz. It seemed to stand out from the rest of the them visually to me.

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In the Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum, in which I first encountered this symbol, Inguz was described in this way:

“This Rune is akin to the moon, the intuitive part of our nature, with its urge toward harmonizing and adjusting in the sphere of personal relationships. The completion of beginnings is what Inguz requires. Drawing this rune may mark a time of joyful deliverance of new life, a new path. It means you will have the strength to achieve completion resolution from which comes new beginning. – All things change and we can not live permanently amid obstructions.”

The meaning appealed to me and seemed to describe the way in which I sought out work and new projects.

When searching further into this rune I found this meaning taken from the book “Zen Runes” by Maria Letizia Renzulli.

“As the moon is mirrored in the sea, as the upper parts of the this rune can be mirrored in the lower, so to can you mirror yourself in others, discovering your true power… “

This felt like the closest description to what I do. I work with people, find a personal connection and then mirror back that connection by framing their story within a photograph, audio story or interactive program that allows those that I work with to hear themselves and share in their own way. I don’t create new things. I simply witness the existence of them and highlight the importance and value to sharing them.

Only one person voted for this symbol but his reasoning just added to my original attraction to this symbol. My friend Steve Oxley impressions were as follows:

“It gives off the impression of potential – The design is simple yet complex, it gives me the impression of balance, as if life occurs in the apex of your past and your future. This is why it is good for a portfolio that’s trying to encompass your past in hopes of bringing the light to future adventures”

I can’t help but agree with Steve. I am still unsure of how and where it will visually show up on the website, but I have a few more days to figure that out.

7/29/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Images of the labyrinth and eye symbols were taken from the following books found in Powell’s bookstore in Portland OR:  ”The Book of Symbols” – Taschen “Man and His Symbols” – Carl Jung

one world; many stories

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During this past week, I have been carving out time each evening to sort through folders of digital images from a variety of long-lost external hard drives as well as trying to scan images that were literally lost due to technical traumatic casualties. Although it’s been a long process and has taken many late evenings, I am really glad I’ve been asked to do this. Not only am I archiving this buried data in a visible and accessible way but I am also enjoying bringing back to life the people places and stories that have emerged in my life this past ten years. After writing and reflecting on each of these projects/jobs, I realize that there is not one but a few similar threads that have run through both my life and work choices.

As the Wild Card Anita requested, I examined and sought out the patterns that appeared in my decision-making. Many people find that patterns or cycles of behavior tend to hold them back from progression or keep them stuck in a rut. This may be true, but In my case, I have found that my patterns have mostly propelled me forward. I can happily say that I would not have ever wanted to make any other choices than the ones I have thus far.

I am sure these specific patterns I have formed have prevented me from reaching particular desired outcomes that others seek in life (like owning a home, starting a family or bringing in a six figure income) but, looking over the images from my past decade has only reminded me of all the great fortune I have gained and built.

My flexibility and goal of following a path of personal freedom has given me the privilege and ability to explore new environments, create unique individualized job experiences and build new relationships. The one thing that stands out from all of those experiences is the interaction with people and the witnessing of their stories.

In each and every job that I have held in my life the core of the work always had to deal with interacting and engaging with individuals. Whether it has been listening to someone share their life story, assisting them express ideas through art making or helping someone find what they want or need through customer service; I thrive off of the interaction and communication with people.

I look forward to the opportunity of forming a new connection or relationship and the chance to learn something new through that person. This process has been consistent most everything that I have done. What has kept it fresh for me, is the cycle of engaging with new people, new cultures and places. Working with people is a great reminder that I will never stop learning, if I  stay open to collecting and accepting new perspectives.

Everywhere I go, (whether it be Baltimore City, Cambodia, or rural Japan) I encounter a new amazing person and new incredible story.

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Anita also asked me to pin point one of my past experiences that would be the hardest for me to let go of. As I said before, I have been happy with most of my choices and would not want to give any of them up. There are many experiences that have been good for me in many ways, but there is one project in particular which I feel was invaluable to me and accomplished much more than benefiting only my personal learning.  I also did not have to travel further than my front porch to experience this adventure.

Porch Art

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— In the fall of 2006, I moved to Huntingdon Ave in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore MD. The following summer, I started spending every Tuesday evening on my porch engaging a small group of 5 – 8 neighborhood kids with the art supplies I had stored in my basement. For me, this was a great way to get to know the kids in my neighborhood, do something that I loved, and provide a space for youth to socialize and engage in something positive. We started calling Tuesday nights “Porch Art” night.
In Porch Art’s second summer, the attendance doubled, I recruited neighborhood helpers and had a few parents attending and donating supplies. By my final and fourth year doing Porch Art, we had groups of up to 30 people of all ages attending. Guest artist instructors led activities, local musicians entertained and I organized a rotating roster of community volunteers to help set up, run and clean up each Tuesday. – (end of official online portfolio description)

Creating Porch Art made me realize that there is a simple logic in combining the desire to do something I love with the simple desire of doing something positive for the immediate environment around me.  This, I found, is the key to doing what I strive to do and call  “good work”. By using a small amount of my personal time and the materials I had at my fingertips, I was able to create a life-changing, invaluable experience for myself while also setting a structure and example for positive change in my community.   I didn’t need to travel to do it.  I didn’t spend money to do this.  I didn’t need to advertise for people to come or promote the project.  It filled a need for both myself and the neighborhood and taught me how important working with my present situation, the materials I had and the people around me, could be. If I can keep following that model for developing work in my future endeavors and become creative enough to make a living off of it, I am sure I will be successful and happy doing it.

7/26/13

Voice of America covered Porch Art – This piece aired in a few foreign countries in a few different languages.

See more images from Porch Art here.

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Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

 

(wo)man and her symbols

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I have had little time (literally) between my travels from coast to coast and state to state to properly give thought to Anita’s Wild Card self-reflection questions. Although I did zero in on one of them in particular – selecting a symbol for my portfolio.

I am a visual person so I thought this would be easy. But for some reason, I am finding it very difficult. How could one symbol or image represent what you would like to communicate about your personality or being? If there was a symbol that represented me what would it be? Is there really one archetype that can represent an individual?  It’s probably the reason I have never gotten a tattoo… I can’t imagine picking one image that I would want to permanently live with. As found written in an 8th grade journal of mine, “Consistent change is the only constant in life”. I kind of still believe that.

Although difficult to pin down, I gravitated toward this task and welcomed the relief and break from hours of computer work – sitting with a pile of books peering through pages of visual images was an enjoyable experience. Below are some of the first finds and thoughts on selecting an archetype to represent my individuality and the work that I do.

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So what kind of woman am I? Is there a symbol that can represent that?

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What kinds of images have been used in the past to represent women? Do I separately self identify as being a woman? Being a woman with a certain kind of career? Hmmm… not really

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Do I identify as being a traveler? Well… not only.

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Do I identify with the amount of money I make? Or where I live? Maybe the things that I own or the things that I do?  No… not really.  None of that really seems to get at who I am or what my work choices have meant to me.

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Could an animal represent me? I am starting to feel like a turtle residing on or by the water for the past two years and moving my home with me from place to place.

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Should I look to astrology? Being a Capricorn is supposed to mean I am good on land and in water (the goat/fish).  It sort of suits?

IMG_3853 IMG_3873 IMG_3877 IMG_3878What about looking to history, mythology, or dreams to find the right symbol?

It all seems way too representational and a little bit too specific for me, connected only to one thing time, or place, with predisposed meaning.

Honestly I would prefer not putting any excess pictorial images on my online portfolio in addition to representing my work itself.  After looking through more symbols I started leaning toward those that were graphic and linear.

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The number 4 for some reason has always been my favorite number

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I liked this one for its meaning more than the graphic. Sewing a seed that would grow the universe sounds appealing to me.

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Again, I am more interested in the meaning here, rather than the graphic itself.  The idea of independent movement and migration is something that has always played a role in my life.

After searching through pages and pages of symbols in books at Powell’s bookstore in Portland. My friend Gabe found this book “The Book of RUNES” by Ralph H. Blum

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The symbols in this book seem to hold both the graphics and the meanings that I feel are more akin to me.

The following text was taken from the introduction of Blum’s book

“Runes are of Scandinavian decent and are an ancient alphabetic script in which each letter possesses a meaning and a signifying sound.  They were used for legal documents, writing poetry and inscriptions but never evolved as a spoken language.”

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This Rune is the Berkana Rune.  It represents Growth, Rebirth, and Birch Tree.  “The growth may occur in affairs of the world, family matters, the relationship of the self to the self or to the divine. This Rune leads to blossoming and ripening. It is concerned with the flow of beings into their new forms.”

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This Rune is Inguz. “It represents fertility or new beginnings.  This Rune is akin to the moon, the intuitive part of our nature, with its urge toward harmonizing and adjusting in the sphere of personal relationships.  The completion of beginnings is that Inguz requires.  Drawing this Rune may mark a time of joyful deliverance of new life, a new path.  It means  you will have the strength to achieve completion resolution from which comes new beginning.”

There are a few other Runes in this book that I am drawn to but these last two are the ones that speak to me the most.

I know which image I would pick but I have been asked by the Wild Card to allow the readers to vote upon the image that I should use.  Please visit the Living Chapters Facebook Page and cast your vote for the image in the ” (wo)man and her symbols” photo album that you feel best represents either my work or myself.

7/19/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Images of the symbols were taken from the following books found in Powell’s bookstore in Portland OR:  “The Book of Symbols” – Taschen “Man and His Symbols” – Carl Jung “The Symbolic Quest” – Edward Whitmont “1000 symbols, What Shapes Mean in Art and Myth” by Rowena and Rupert Shepherd

the king of scrap

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Late last night, I left Portland, OR and took a red-eye flight home to the East Coast after a short-lived but much appreciated visit with this month’s chapter writer Gabe DellaVecchia.

I had put this cross-country trip off for too long. It seemed never a good time to go, but I had promised Gabe that I would visit him and his wife Makie, before they left this city that they love so much. So I decided to follow through, even in the midst of balancing my family obligations and non-profit day job duties. I am really glad I went. Even coming off a full night of no sleep and bouncing on and off planes, I am returning feeling ready to take on the rest of this month’s challenges. Sometimes all it takes for me to re-center is being around someone and sharing with one who really knows me.

Spending time with Gabe these past few days has been like exploring a time capsule I buried 17 years ago. He is one of the few players in Living Chapters that has actually witnessed nearly half of my life and all of the choices I have made. He knows me so well that he remembers some things more vividly and accurately than I could conjure myself.

“Oh really, I created a series of curtain and cloud photographs lying on the roof of the apartment building we use to live in? …Oh yeah, I guess I did do that…”

He has a photographic memory, but since I’ve known him, hasn’t really spent time making any photographs. Unlike myself, who has framed and photographed a lifetime of moments as an attempt at remembering all the people places and stories that continue to stockpile in the storage unit in my brain. I’m not that old yet, but the memories are starting to fade – I need a system upgrade and fast!

Making this trip to the west coast was not the only thing I have been putting off. After chatting with Gabe about the reasoning behind his July homework assignment, I realized that it has been seven years since I even talked about trying to start this “online portfolio”. Seven years had passed and I still have not done this? In 2005, I had gotten as far as scanning my photographic artwork and requesting a friend to design a website for me. We made it half way through before I got lost in another all-encompassing project and ran out of energy and web design funds and threw in the towel. Even though I am intimidated with Gabe’s task, we both agreed, it, like my visit to Portland, was long overdue.

Portland itself was fantastic. I am not able to go into how much I really enjoyed the people, food, mentality, feel and layout of the city because that would be a different blog entry altogether but let’s just say I’ll definitely be back and endorse the city full-heartedly. The thing I enjoyed most though was just being around my good friend.

It was the first time in years that we were able to really catch up and update each other in person on where we had landed on the map currently and on all the uncertainties and waypoints that lay ahead.

I feel more comfortable comparing notes with Gabe than anyone else on the constant set of transitions that make up my life. He is my only friend who has made an equal amount or more life choices and transitions into unchartered territory than anyone else I know. I am constantly impressed with his ability to reinvent himself and land on his feet in new situations.

This fact didn’t really sink in though until I started flipping through his masterfully organized “scrap books” that he has been compiling of his life’s work and path. As he mentioned earlier, Gabe secured a job in Denver and found little need to put together an online portfolio. Most of his career evidence is not visual and he was not in need of a job any longer. However, he is in need of making his load lighter on move day so decided to scrap together the mounds of evidence collected from his past endeavors into what are now 8 very large 3 ring binders.

I was blown away after exploring a few of them. It was like looking through an encyclopedia of Gabe’s existence from A-Z or in this case from birth to the present day. They began with his elementary days leading up to his 35th year and 357th job in Denver Colorado. On these hundreds of plastic wrapped pages you’ll find a path of papers and meticulously handwritten long notations. His traveling road starts with a high school trips to Russia and New Zealand and surprising leads him to college years in the suburbs of Baltimore City, a plethora of indie rock concerts, an ice cream parlor/beauty salon, a South African village, many Hollywood movies accountants offices, and a hot air balloon ride over Angkor Watt. (to name just a few of the random stops along the way)

To tell you the truth, I was overwhelmed looking through volume one. I was greatly impressed with the time, care, and details that were put into his handy work. (and a bit inspired!) These books are tactile personal and meaningful not something that I believe that can be achieved with a website. They guided me down the windy rocky road showing me exactly how he found his way from the suburbs of New Jersey to where he is today.

I was amazed and touched by the amount of detail and context in his books, and am honestly both a bit relieved and sad that I am not taking this route of scrapping together all the minutes and moments of my life in books. For me, the tactile scrapping is much more my style and the more enjoyable method. There is something to the actual cut and paste that I love oh so much more than the clicks on the keyboard.

I am thankful though that I am not piecing together the puzzle of my entire life this month. It may be taking me extra long hours on the computer building and editing my online resume but luckily I have been given the online visual express route from college years until now. So check in if you want and see that I have somehow made my second deadline of getting all basic descriptions of all projects up!

Phase one done! Phase two begins tomorrow – 10 years and 10,0000 pictures. Here we go.

Visit bethbarbush.com for recent written updates. Comment at the bottom of the pages while the commenting function is still enabled! I would love your feedback on this process.

7/17/13

Highlights from my visit with Gabe:

IMG_3799IMG_3802Our visit to “Scrap” the best recycled reused craft/school supply place ever.

IMG_4049IMG_3978 IMG_3979 IMG_3980Going through Gabe’s Scrap books.

Portland trip theme song from the Maestro:  Swim Until You Can’t See Land

For more highlights from Portland visit Facebook Portland album:  Including research for the Wild Card Response at Powell’s book store and the joy of returning to the Jump Rope Journal

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

July: Wild Card

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This month’s topic seems a little different to me than the others. Probably by definition, order and logic are the opposite of dynamism and fun, often thought of as the antitheses of creativity, innovation, and artistic expression. Wait, Beth, why did you pick Gabe and me for this month again? Never mind, I have heard you say that you could use more order and logic in your life, but I’ve been wondering what you really want them to do for you.

For the record, what I said about order and logic being the opposite of innovation and creativity is not true. Creativity usually happens when someone has deep knowledge of her subject and combines ideas (particularly from different disciplines) in novel ways. If you didn’t have your background in community organizing, art programs, multimedia, and storytelling, it is hard to imagine you could have dreamt up this project. So it makes sense to include logic and order as a chapter in a project that is at least in part about creative purpose, your purpose. Using the tool of reflection, logic and order can play a role in helping you get at that purpose. Whereas Gabe has instructed you to bring some logic and order to your vita of experiences by organizing, evaluating, and communicating about your past, I will ask you to do some orderly reflection to create a logical framework that can inform your future.

Before I give you the wild card, though, let me just say that I know you are struggling on some level with the very heart of this project, which is complete transparency with whoever happens upon the pages you post. I think any sane person would. This project is a tremendous commitment in time, energy, and exposure. You are being more vulnerable than most of us would dare to be. But this is, I hope, part of the essence of why you are doing the project. It is only in honest, deep reflection that we are able to connect with ourselves and perhaps even with others. It is also my sense that reflection is where you are able to give back to the community that is supporting you in this process. To witness how you are growing, changing, and struggling makes this a human project worth sharing.

If you find yourself in need of inspiration regarding the power of vulnerability, watch this talk by storyteller-researcher Brené Brown. For even more inspiration, watch how conductor Benjamin Zander advises throwing up our hands when we stumble and shouting, “How fascinating!”

And so your wild card:

  1. First, reflect on your life experiences by answering the following questions (I credit my friend Vanessa Harris with devising these questions):
    1. Notice the patterns, what stands out loud and clear from all of your experiences? Not only what you did, but why you did it; what value(s) come through all of your choices/experiences?
    2. If you had to give up one of your past experiences, which would be the hardest to let go of and why?
    3. Who have been your mentors? What have they taught you?
    4. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself five years ago? Can you imagine what type of advice you will wish that your future self would give you today?
    5. If you could try any other type of work for a month (assuming training and opportunity were present), what would it be?
    6. Then, take the following actions:
      1. Based on this reflection, choose a few symbols that could represent you and your portfolio.
      2. Create a poll using the free version of the software Poll Everywhere to allow the community to vote on the symbols you have chosen.
      3. After receiving this input, choose the symbol that you will add to your portfolio. Explain why you selected or rejected the symbol the community recommended for you.

Your culminating reflection on Living Chapters should include a beginning sketch of your vision for what you want to commit your energies to next. I ask that you pick something meaningful and concrete, even if it is a stretch. Following Ben Zander’s logic, if the big thing you are going for is your vision, then you can always move the goal posts closer together or further apart as needed.

This vision can relate to home or housing, relationships (person, plant, or animal), learning, projects, work, travel, health, or whatever. In other words, what can your past tell you (and us) about your future?  You’ve asked us to write twelve months for you, but that means you will be writing the thirteenth, right?

7/15/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Check out the Living Chapters facebook page to follow the growing pains and progress of the evolving online portfolio.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the Body and Kinesthetic chapter.

navigating chaos

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In these last two weeks, I have peeled back the layers and examined my past creative and professional endeavors. Like Gabe, going through his pieces of memory-laden papers for his scrapbook, I am connecting the dots from my experiences, trying to map out the zigzagging path that led me to where I am today. Still camped out here in PA, I am missing boat life in Annapolis, but guess it’s appropriate that I retrace my steps starting from here in small town PA where I hail from.

I never felt as if I possessed much of a sense of direction, but getting lost always came naturally to me.  I enjoy it still.  Somehow, though, I have always found my way, whether it was by using the sun as my compass, or gleaning navigational advice from strangers at red lights and toll booths. I’ve felt more comfortable moving in the direction in which the wind was blowing stronger or relying on what felt right, more so than using any road map or guide-book.

This way of wandering through the world may not seem logical to most but it has worked for me. It’s the way in which I have found jobs, developed projects, made friends and committed to major life decisions. Organically… not really orderly.

I’ve never held an office job, have never balanced my checkbook, and currently have my belongings stashed in 5 different places in two separate states. (one of them being an almost sinking sailboat)  Gabe’s description “a delicate balance of spinning chaos” may be the best way anyone has ever explained my unique lifestyle.

Oddly enough, I like to be dropped in the midst of chaos or unchartered territory. I’ve become kind of use to it, and am somehow more comfortable with the task of blazing my own path through the woods than following other people’s prescribed directions.  And although there is nothing that I enjoy more than the unpredictability, freedom and diversity that my choices bring to my life – I constantly feel like I somehow, someday have to get my act together! Become organized! Get my life in order!

But when looking back, from this vantage point, it appears I have possessed an order and structure all along. It’s just taken the task of creating an online visual portfolio for me to be able to see this. Being asked to take a moment, reflect, and organize my accomplishments has revealed that I have had a clear direction in my path and an overlapping core mission in my career choices. I just seemed to have gotten there using creativity and instinct more than logic or order.

Why do I need to structure the chaos that is my life? Controlling chaos would only eliminate all the possible paths that I have taken creatively to navigate through it.

I tend to agree with Robert Frost:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
 
7/13/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Check out the Living Chapters facebook page to follow the growing pains and progress of the evolving online portfolio.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the Body and Kinesthetic chapter.