Is this what I deserve, a mouthful of dirt?…*

*Lyrics from Say Something by Sucré off the album A Minor Bird. Horns, floaty voices, modern and nostalgic. You should always have a soundtrack to your own life. Or you can borrow mine. Either way, sing and dance your way through your life. You’ll be happier. I promise.

The vista from behind the tree looking toward the yard - we used to stand on this area of the yard to throw the ball, and just generally be with our girl.

Letting go of an idea is probably one of the hardest things to do. I learned that the hard way – the hard, embarrassing, crying in public for hours uncontrollably way – while I was in school taking an intensive 10-week Interior Design program at Suffolk University in Boston. I was living here, in Western Massachusetts, when I enrolled in the program. I was a married (still am, happily!), older student trying to embark on a (yet another) career change. Of course, mere days before I was to leave for mini-college-camp (I actually roomed with an undergrad, who, thankfully was mature, sweet and totally easy to share space with) my mom moved in with us due to some major health issues she was facing (she’s doing fine now, again, thankfully). So, in addition to the normal stress of the actual program, I had to live apart from my husband for 10 weeks (I came home on weekends), and live with (and care for) my mom who was (at that time) ailing, and recovering from some life-threatening health stuff. Needless to say, my emotions were running high, and I didn’t exactly come out of the experience unscathed.

One of the projects we had to do involved making an elaborate mold for a plaster of Paris sculpture project. We had parameters for how the mold had to be built, and for how many pieces we had to build, and for how the piece would be viewed, but mostly we had our imaginations to guide us. I was instantly struck with inspiration, and had a complete visual in my head of how ‘perfect’ the piece was going to be. I sacrificed hours and hours and hours of precious time on my two days home perfecting my idea – forgoing family time, summer in the yard with the dog time, and snuggling in the hammock with the husband time. I was certain that all this sacrifice would pay off in the end, and I’d have an easier time completing the umpteen other projects we had to do during the balance of the coming week. I was thinking ahead, and using my time wisely. Or so I believed.

No sooner than I had stepped into class to show the initial mock-up of the mold to my professor did he summarily rip (yes, he actually tore it) the mold in half and throw most of it away (like, actually chucked it across the room). He tinkered, and tweaked, and gave me feedback (called a ‘crit’) all in hopes of making me understand that the mold I had spent so much time on was too elaborate, and that simplifying the idea would make it stronger (it had to actually be built in the physical world), and make it easier for me to control the end product. I’m not sure how quickly, but not long afterward I dissolved into unconsolable, blubbering, seriously childish tears that I could not stop no matter how I tried. (After that, my relationship with that teacher was seriously strained, sadly, since he was undoubtedly one of the most important and effective teachers I’ve ever had.) I’m certain that, looking back, some of those tears were for regular family/life stuff, but most of them were for my bruised ego. MY idea was the greatest! How dare he! It was perfect! (And on, and on, and on.)

We’ve all been there. Our world changes and we must change with it, or suffer the insufferable consequence of losing your shit in public. But it’s not easy. As embarrassed as I was (and, if I’m honest, I still am, a little), I am beyond grateful that I was able to learn that lesson the easy-hard way. I mean, I could have learned that from a client in the so-called ‘real world,’ or from something worse than having a cardboard art project destroyed in seconds. It’s a lesson that has stayed with me, and one that I think of frequently. Life isn’t always perfect, and neither are my ideas (even when they’re good). Ideas are meant to change and adapt to certain parameters, to certain limitations that the physical world doles out. If your idea doesn’t change, if you are unable to think about the solution to the problem in more than one way, you’re bound to get stuck, and not in a happy way.

All of this wisdom – and really the pain and tumult of the initial lesson – is sinking on me again as Jeff and I deal with the inevitable changes we must make in our vision for the house, the basement, and the fact that the tree we planted for our darling dog isn’t the pink that I envisioned, but rather a rosey-red with white (which is still pretty, just not what I had expected or imagined as ‘perfect’). Life gives you lemons and you really do have to figure out what to do with them. Sometimes you get to make lemonade (especially in summertime with lavender), but sometimes you have to figure out something else to do with them. Because if you only have one recipe in your repertoire you’re destined for staleness, for disappointment, and for one hell of a boring world.

Some pictures of how the tree is doing now. Enjoy! xoxo

One comment...


    Boy do I identify with this… three years of art school was devastating to my ego. But now I’ve been ripped so many times that it really doesn’t matter to me anymore. It’s not that I don’t have an ego, I just don’t take criticisms personally. And you’re right — it is a very valuable real world lesson.

    Sorry to hear that your mom was ailing, but glad that all is well. A rosy tree is just as lovely as a pink one.

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