The blank slate of every moment

We can start again at any time, not just at the beginning of the year.

January 29, 2023

The following text was originally published as part my newsletter “Field Notes on Flourishing” which was on Substack from 2022-2023. Embedded images and links have been removed.

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Hey, there: I hope this letter finds you well on this last Sunday in January. And I hope that your first little while in this new year—whether you’re counting from the start of the Gregorian or the Lunar calendar—has felt good so far.

As you might have noticed, you didn’t hear from me in December. At the time I was supposed to write my newsletter, I had just come off a 3-week run with COVID, flown across the world (after recovering), and was spending precious time with my family who I only get to see twice a year. Something about taking time away from that felt stressful and not in the spirit of this newsletter, so I decided to listen to my gut and take a pause so that I could be fully present and also get some much-needed time to rest and recover. I hope you also found that time for yourself. I’m glad to be here again now and settling back into the monthly routine of writing to all of you, whose support and presence are so appreciated.

I spent the beginning of this year in the south of Spain, savoring the warm feeling of the sun on my skin which I hadn’t felt in five months. One day, my partner and I went to spend the day at a botanical garden. We spent hours walking around through giant monsteras, palm trees, cactus gardens, and groves of lemon, orange, and hibiscus trees. At one point, I trailed off and sat alone beneath a tree to do some sketching and start my 2023 vision board.

As I listened to parrots singing in the trees above me and filled the page with my intentions, I felt gratitude and excitement for the new year—but also a dull sense of pressure and a sprinkle of dread at the thought of all the big changes coming my way in just a few months’ time.

The start of a new year can be wonderful and exciting but also stressful. Sometimes, in trying to embrace newness and the fresh energy of a blank slate, there is also a tendency to burden ourselves as we drastically overhaul our lives in pursuit of an ideal version of ourselves. Suddenly, many of us try to front-load everything we felt we’ve lagged behind in during the previous year and create routines, rituals, and expectations that are often not sustainable in order to address this perceived lack.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to be a better version of yourself. But I personally am trying to embrace a long-game approach: committing to a slow journey where I set loving intentions for myself and treat every moment as a new chance instead of trying to measure up to grand, lofty, and often rigid annual goals.

This is something I’m actively trying to remember and put into practice: that each and every moment is a blank slate—we don’t have to wait for the first day of the year, the month, the week, or the day to begin again. New beginnings are all around us.

In just a few of months’ time, I’ll be graduating from my MFA program and starting a new chapter of my life. When I first decided to go back to school, I think on some level I figured I’d be hitting pause on my previous life (running my illustration studio and doing advertising and editorial projects full-time) and picking back up where I left off once I had my diploma in hand. But as I see my post-grad school future dimly glowing on the horizon, I realize that I’m about to start a new adventure that will look different than my life before.

For starters: during these (almost) two years I’ve had an opportunity to breathe again, to take my foot off the gas and learn and experiment and grow as an artist and a person. I know that I want to make a lot more space for personal art exploration than I had before, which means carving out more time and energy for non-commercial work and nurturing other aspects of my art practice. This probably also means finally partnering with an illustration agent so I can free up this time and be part of a team.

I have had the opportunity to delve deeper into visual storytelling and am creating a picture book/graphic novel that has allowed me to reconnect with writing. This means, somewhere a ways down the road, I’ll be reaching out to agents and publishers to find this story a home. I am leaning more in the direction of exhibiting work in different contexts, offering my work to new audiences, and showing it in public spaces, galleries, and generally non-commercial places. These are all things that make me feel both excited and scared—because I know that I am going to experience a huge spectrum of emotions as I venture into uncharted territory. But I am comforted by knowing that a journey is made one step at a time. So I’ll be over here doing my best to remain focused and present and minding my feet.

Take care, be well, and as always thanks for reading.

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