In my second chapter, writer Gabe DellaVecchia challenges me to do something I had been putting off for years…create an online professional portfolio documenting my work over the past 10+ years. In one month’s time his suggestions and deadlines helped me to create www.bethbarbush.com. Wild Card Anita Delahay challenged me to do some deep reflection on my past experiences to help me logically plan my future experiences. She also asked me to think visually and choose a symbol that could represent myself or my work. Please read the full chapter two challenge below the images here. Or start reading here for my responses.
For those of you just joining the story now, allow me to catch you up to speed:
After spending her early years in Dillsburg, PA, hanging out in cemeteries and recording lo-fi experimental music on boomboxes, our Protagonist Beth left her bucolic hometown to attend Western Maryland College in the slightly bigger town of Westminster, MD.
Not finding satisfaction there, she transferred to Goucher College in Baltimore, MD where she continued to explore her desire to build abstract sculptures out of wood and mirrors.
What’s that? You thought Beth was a photographer? Well, her switch from sculpture to photography was but one of the first seismic shifts that Ms. Barbush has undertaken to revamp her life.
Because Baltimore wasn’t enough for Miss Beth, in her third year of college, she jetted off to Scotland for a year, where she majored in Chatting In Pubs and Dark Beer Drinking, as well as taking some seriously excellent photos.
In her fourth and final year of college, and continuing the year after graduation, Beth lived in the darkroom. Well, technically, she lived with me in a ramshackle apartment in Charles Village with a Living Ghost and then a Dude Who Lived on Peanut Butter, but for all intents and purposes, Beth didn’t see the sun from the fall of 1998 until the spring of 2000.
Her college education complete, BB burst forth from Baltimore and flew out into the world on many, many adventures. She taught photography for a year in the miniscule Australian town of Jindabyne. She moved to Rhode Island as an AmeriCorps volunteer to do some amazing work with the RISD Museum. She nabbed a job with Art on Purpose and spent five productive years with them documenting all sorts of social change in Baltimore, including publishing a book. She spent multiple summers teaching at the prestigious St. George’s School in Newport, RI, which puts Hogwarts to shame. She ran volunteer photography programs in Cambodia and Tanzania. She took a position with the Maryland Humanities Council, where she has been fostering conversations about controversial topics.
Did I mention conversations? Did I somehow leave out the part where she became interested in audio? Oh yes, from projects with Art on Purpose to Remington Youth Community Radio, Beth started combining audio with her visuals. That includes a documentary project that she did with me in rural Japan…
In between all of this, Beth has squeezed in showings of her artwork in coffee shops, libraries, and honest-to-goodness art galleries, not to mention museums. She ran a program called Porch Art for local kids for many years with nothing more than her creativity and the junk she had accumulated in her basement and closets.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but I’ve had a front-row seat to the flowing river of Beth’s life for almost two decades now, so you’ll have to forgive me some lapses.
“Where can I see all of these amazing projects?” you ask.
Nowhere. That’s the problem.
Here’s where I come in:
Beth was extremely modest in her intro bio, only touching on the surface of her past accomplishments. She, like me, is focused more on the future than on the past. The “Living Chapters” project, by its very nature, is a forward-looking endeavor.
But, as all good storytellers know, sometimes you have to take a few steps back to set the stage before proceeding.
One of my hopes for “Living Chapters” is that, through the combined power of her self-made community, Beth will be positioned in a fantastic place at the end of this year for wherever she may decide to head off next.
Because of the nature of her work, Beth’s accomplishments are not well-served by a paper resume. A portfolio would be better, but with Beth always reaching out to the wider world, a physical portfolio is not practical. For years, I have listened as Beth has lamented her lack of an online presence.
So, using my powers of Logic and Order, here’s my challenge to you, Beth: by the end of July, you will have completed an online ePortfolio hosted at the FREE site www.mahara.org
With all of your accomplishments, your professional life can be arranged in any number of ways: chronologically, community vs. fine art, visual vs. audio… The organization is part of the challenge. My only request in this area is that your AmeriCorps service, your major projects with Art on Purpose and Maryland Humanities, your international work (Australia, Cambodia, Tanzania, Japan), your teaching at St. George’s, selected fine art exhibitions, and your community involvement (Porch Art, RYCR, etc) be included in some fashion.
Here is the schedule I am setting up for you:
By July 3rd: Create your account on Mahara. Also, you must post to the “Living Chapters” Facebook page the major divisions of your ePortfolio. It can be the names of the groups you have worked for, the types of projects, whatever you wish. (Divide those topics into four, because you will have a deadline on each of the following Wednesdays to submit ¼ of the ePortfolio to the “Living Chapters” community for review.)
By July 10th: One quarter of the topics (the first of four, two out of eight… however you have divided your professional life) should be loaded onto Mahara and the link posted on the “Living Chapters” Facebook page so that your readers can see what you have done.
By July 17th: Another quarter of the topics should be completed and posted for viewing. (You will have half of a complete ePortfolio!)
By July 24th: The third quarter of the topics should be completed and posted.
By July 31st: The final quarter of your ePortfolio should be uploaded. You will now have a complete ePortfolio to share with whatever future employers or organizations you wish to work with!
I am hoping that the pressure of having the “Living Chapters” community monitoring your progress will help to give you the motivation to complete this project that has been perpetually looming but perpetually being postponed. Also, I am hoping that using an open-source, web-based program will allow your community to give you constructive criticism as you build the ePortfolio, improving the final product.
Also, I just spent a boatload of money on a Master’s Degree. One of my final assignments was making a physical teaching portfolio to bring along to interviews. At the time, it seemed like a burdensome requirement, something that should have been taking the backseat to the more pressing needs of my daily lesson planning. But, after being forced to make it, I am glad I have it. My portfolio is a concise record of my life as a teacher, and it can speak for me when I am not there.
However, my portfolio is merely a physical item and I never had the time to build an electronic version. Therefore, as part of my participation in “Living Chapters” and also to help me on my current job search, I too will be building my ePortfolio and keeping to the deadlines listed above!
Good luck, and we all look forward to finally seeing Beth Barbush properly reflected in cyberspace.
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:
- First, reflect on your life experiences by answering the following questions (I credit my friend Vanessa Harris with devising these questions):
- 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?
- If you had to give up one of your past experiences, which would be the hardest to let go of and why?
- Who have been your mentors? What have they taught you?
- 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?
- If you could try any other type of work for a month (assuming training and opportunity were present), what would it be?
- Then, take the following actions:
- Based on this reflection, choose a few symbols that could represent you and your portfolio.
- Create a poll using the free version of the software Poll Everywhere to allow the community to vote on the symbols you have chosen.
- 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?