Each morning I scramble two eggs. I pour a little bit of green-vegetable juice into a glass and dilute it to the brim with city water from my faucet; it’s something I picked up doing in Australia. It makes you feel less guilty about drinking sugary juice.
My coffee pot sputters and steams as it make the MY perfect cup of hot black coffee. I usually sip this throughout the morning while I do dishes and make my bed.
Sitting down for breakfast is brief these days, usually spent listening to a podcast like 1A or the Creative Pep Talk, and other days I simply sit down with my own thoughts to entertain myself (Scary, I know).
This week my thoughts have revolved around my favorite year. Do you have a favorite year of life? I’ve heard of people wanting to re-do particularly painful years (like my junior year of high school). However, I’m not here to talk about my most painful year. I’m here to talk about my favorite year.
2010: The year of the first iPad and the BP oil spill. It was a time when people still loved Justin Bieber.
I was in my early twenties in college and experienced some major changes. A late bloomer, I experienced my first French kiss at the end of my sophomore year and a swift heartbreak that followed finding out that this person was spreading the love with several other willing participants.
At the time, I was a little naïve and had never been in a situation like that before and so it crushed me (there’s a little more to this story, but it’s going to stay private). I can laugh about it all now, but at the time I didn’t believe I would recover from the loss; it all felt pretty hopeless.
When the semester ended, I spent a decent part of the summer running. Not running away from my feelings, I mean literally running, up to about 6 miles in the morning, and walking approximately 4+ miles each evening. I was only working a part-time job so moving around became a hobby. Month after month, I woke up, tied on my shoes, and ran.
It helped occupy my mind that summer and gave me confidence in myself. I began to see myself as a person who could accomplish things on my own, rather than on the defense, just reacting to the things happening to me.
In September of 2010, I left for the Trip of a Lifetime (as we called it): My university study abroad program (5 weeks on Australia’s Gold Coast, 5 Weeks in Queenstown, NZ and 3 Weeks all over Southeast Asia). At this point, only mildly sore from the heartbreak I’d experienced months previously, I was optimistic that I was about to experience something truly remarkable.
I created friendships with people I didn’t expect. I broke rules. I jumped into the lake. I got lost in Hanoi, then again in Tokyo. During this time I discovered my passion for art and immediately changed my major to painting. I let myself feel alive again.
I like to think I “leveled-up” that year. When I look back on 2010, I don’t think about my heartbreak. I really only see the good. I see my first experience with fancy Japanese toilets. I see myself sneaking down the street with a pupil, drinking Heinekens in brown bags, trying not to get caught by our instructors. I see us staying up late on a sheep farm playing truth-or-dare. I still hear the group of us harmonizing on the bus, making the driver cry because it was beautiful.
2010 was the year I pushed myself out of my, so called, comfort zone and into (cue Kenny Loggins) the danger zone. Even the aforementioned heartbreak was a good thing. I pushed myself to be vulnerable with someone, and while it didn’t work out how I’d hoped, it was rewarding to open myself up. I learned how to be hurt and how to take care of myself at the same time.
Since then, I’ve had quite a few life-changing experiences and collected a whole slew of heartbreaks. I’ve changed for the better in some ways and, in other ways, I’ve likely changed for the worse. However, I simply can’t think of a year that sums up the idea of “leveling-up” better than 2010.
Upon this reflection, I’ve begun thinking about how I can level-up this year. How can I push myself to be the best I can be, make my best art, throw my best boxing combination, and explore the best places I can afford? What can I do in order to be brave enough to be vulnerable again? Are there things I can do now to keep progressing and eventually look back with a new favorite year?
I’m not sure I have an answer but I do have the mindset and motivation I know I need. I’m going to put myself back into the (Cue Kenny Loggins again) Danger Zone. I’m going to try new things and meet new people. I’m going to care for my body and my spirit.
2018 is the year I level-up again. If you’re tuned in, expect good things and if you have any recommendations, I’ll take those below.
I've started this post several times without feeling very committed to it. It might be because I keep trying to write something that is true about myself and my own experience but I'm not really sure about what I'm experiencing these days.
I'll tell you what I know is true. The past 365 days have been difficult. I could list all of the things this year that have disappointed me, and if you know me personally, I'm sure you could quote them all yourself. I'm all too fond of maudlin (my new favorite word); I let it snake through my veins like a thick, unfiltered, honey. Eventually coating my lungs and escaping from my lips as grievances and protestations.
A friend once described me as, "a walking billboard," So, I'm sure you don't need to know my story, the good and the bad; it's written on everything I do, engrained on my every fingerprint.
So now I paint.
I paint, I write, I laugh, and I cry a little. I'm trying to let myself feel all of my emotions and then let them go, reminding myself that all feelings are here and then they're gone They're just gusts of wind off the lake at dawn, chilling, thrilling, and temporary.
Sometimes it seems like maybe I live in the wrong time or place, surrounded by people who've all come up with their own ideas about what part I play in the world or their world. Maybe it's an artist thing that I always feel like I've never clearly articulated what I want, and why I'm here.
I've never said all of the words I've intended to say. I've never quite got my point across.
Maybe it's just the human condition to never truly know yourself and that's why I paint and draw so many self-portraits; I'm still figuring it out.
Well, my most recent portrait gets a little bit closer to a sliver of what I wish I could say about myself.
Painted in only four hours. It felt good. It felt like the truth. My vulnerability.
This painting is a short story. You can tell yourself whatever you want about it. Draw your own conclusions, just as everyone tells themselves their own story about everyone else. But for me, it's nice to look at this painting and recognize a truth about myself and where I'm at, even if it's still a bit blurry.
I may sometimes find myself lost at sea, but I keep swimming.
Angela DeCamp is an Indianapolis based artist. who enjoys the finer things in life: black coffee, carnival tickets, the sound high heels make when they clickty-clack on the sidewalk.