Morris Louis, Beta Lambda, 1961.
"I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories from your life- your life- not someone else's life- water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work."
Have you ever looked at your CV, and likened your list of work experience to the trail of footprints of a drunk person who is trying to walk in a straight line? That's what my CV looks like. "Ooh yes please to being a research assistant for my art history lecturer... but now I'm going to go over here and try out a marketing role in fashion... whoops- no- I actually want to work in the healthfood industry... Maybe I'll try managing a yoga/pilates studio? Hang on, I need to get back to art, I'll go work in arts management..." None of my positions have lasted for more than a year. Then there are the big gaps in time between roles. (I'm imagining said drunk person standing still for a moment to stare off into the stars and wonder how long it would take to reach Jupiter.) When I take it all in, I begin to think- "what exactly have I been doing for the past 10 years?!"
Of course, this is not a particularly kind or helpful thought, but it happens anyway. In a society that still prioritises careers that travel in a linear fashion, it can be easy to feel like there's something "wrong" with you when you choose to meander off the beaten track. Not only that, you don't know where on earth you're going, no one gave you a map, and sometimes you end up getting lost and afraid. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid you might not be cut out for this mission. Afraid you'll never get to where you want to be.
Detail from Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Bushfire, 2003
"In order to write about life, first you must live it."
Over the last 2 weeks I've been writing a series of instagram posts about the 9 muses of ancient greek mythology that are explored in my first mentoring program, MEET YOUR MUSE. Each muse has been assigned a different theme, which are my interpretations of their original classical identities. As I've been writing tiny snippets about what I have learned from the wisdom and guidance of these archetypes, I've started to see a patchwork of life experience emerge.
Thalia, the muse of play, taught me to say yes to all those festivals that brought out my inner child, because when we play, we momentarily suspend our disbelief and give ourselves space to dream up new ways of living and creating. She allowed me to go and study courses that nourished my sense of curiosity, (instead of the ones that I knew would guarantee employment), like art history, comparative religion, Australian Indigenous studies, and creative writing.
Whereas Calliope, the muse of story, helped me to sculpt a life that is based on my values of creativity, health, personal development, relationships etc. Because of these values, I've experimented with different business ventures like creating an organic tea range, collecting traditional tapa cloth from the South Pacific, developing healthfood catering services, and making a wearable art/jewellery collection.
Erato, the muse of love, led me into deeply soulful relationships that have taken me from heaven to hell and back again, in order to learn how to love and let love in. She taught me the importance of communication, self-awareness, boundaries and patience. While Terpsichore, the muse of dance, showed me that if I want to make my dreams come true I need to embody them (aha, so that's why I randomly worked in a yoga/pilates studio).
Tim Johnson and Nava Chapman, Walk on, 2009.
"... when an old person dies, a whole library disappears."
What I have been doing for the past 10 years is letting stories happen to me. I've been setting sail on expeditions to the core of my heart and soul to find golden treasures. It's had many moments of calm seas as well as its fair share of storms and shipwrecks. Sometimes it's been an immensely frustrating journey and I thought I'd never end up creating anything that resembles a tangible thing in the world. But as I look over everything I have put into this first program, I see that I actually couldn't have developed it any sooner, because I needed to live it first. I needed to try out many different things to find what lights my fire. I had to let myself steep in the nectar of life and allow it to seep into my bones so that I could create from the inside out.
As creatives, seekers, nomads and healers, I think it's really important for us to remember that while our path may look like a wiggly mess at times, we're actually weaving a personal mythology through living an anthology of stories that are important to us. We're always carrying an internal compass that has been uniquely designed to house our 'why'. So in those moments when we doubt ourselves or give ourselves a hard time for going "off-track", we just need to look inwards, remind ourselves of what we truly value, and trust that we're heading in the right direction.