I recently returned from my 25th high school reunion. I went to the Hotchkiss school in Lakeville, CT. It’s a prep school, which implies a kind of privilege and pampering, but my experience was very different from that – an incessant 4-year grind of relentless deadlines, crushing pressures, and other unpleasantness that I won’t go into. In any case, it was interesting to compare notes with my old classmates, the “where do you live, what do you do, how many kids, etc.” type of conversation that one has at these events.
Some people have found success, some have found failure. Some have found within success a kind of failure. It was fascinating to see. One thing I carried away from it was a sense that the act of “doing” is ultimately more powerful than talking about it or paying other people to do it. I do things. I take photographs that do work for my clients, I build websites, I design brochures and ads (I should say “we” do that, at Studio Two, but I also “do” these things individually). I have a portfolio of 15 years of professional work that is uninterrupted, which turns out to be fairly unusual. Almost everyone else has had multiple careers, gone back to school, started and stopped businesses, lost and won. I’ve done some of that but there’s been a constant drum of producing work under the same flag throughout the duration.
Which has me asking what I actually “do”. I am good at most of these things, sometime very good. But I don’t specialize. I get taken places by the requests of my clients, who more than anything else define my path, which seems odd. I like to figure things out. I like challenges – doing something I haven’t ever done before. I like getting ahead of the curve.
The trouble is that while this is going on, I myself don’t progress towards a goal with the kind of focus that my clients do. I used to believe that the work itself would be its own self-fulfilling path, that if I did good work that it would lead down a path of ever-improving opportunity and development. To some degree this is true, but really it comes down to what direction I want to go in. My clients, for the most part, are happy to have me be there where I am, accessible and ready to work.
So I am examining what I do. This consulting work I am doing is part of that. I’m exploring a different type of relationship with the work and with people. It’s interesting, but also frustrating, as much of the time I think it would be easier to just do the work myself…which isn’t the point. It’s about showing the way, and doing some teaching, and seeing where it leads, and discovering new things that I didn’t know before.
I’m a lucky one. I know that much. Creativity comes easily to me, I’ve trained for it. I think that I would like to help more people find out what that feels like. To my old classmates, I wish the best – health, happiness, and fulfilling lives. I think that maybe if more of them were able to find the creativity that is inherently inside them that they might find that more readily.