Yes, how would you like your story to be told?
Will it be a story full of excuses and reasons, perfectly plausible, why you did not live your dreams, succeeded at your goals or lived happily?
Or will it be a story of how you overcome the obstacles and challenges, on how you tried and maybe sometimes failed, but then tried again and how you chose to live happily despite whatever bad things life threw at you?
And how are you yourself telling the story of your life?
Thinking about this, might be a good way of telling how you are living your life and to consider if this is the best possible way.
Which kind of story do you most like to hear others telling you about their lives?
When I prepared for the workshop I had to present in the Ukraine to young curators I was struck by this question. I was faced with preparing a two-day workshop in a field where I knew that I did not have the proper recognized qualifications and also could not match up with the experiences of my co-presenters, who in my eyes were the ‘real curators’, the ones who have curated the big Documentas and who earn their daily living and a great deal of international recognition with being curators.
And I? Who am I and what could I possibly share in these dreaded two days, which they could not do better?
My head was in a flat spin. I thought of the messed-up situation that was my so-called curator job at the gallery many years ago. I remembered the challenges I faced at the experiencing.etosha art project and how disillusioned I was afterwards, about so many things. I cringed when I thought about the endless hard work that went into the ‘shared experiences’ cultural exchange program which I called into life with Oliver Schruoffeneger and co-managed for several years, the ingrate artists and constant nerve wrecking scramble to keep sponsors and artist and everybody else happy, while feeling totally unappreciated…
What of any of this is worth to share? But yet, somebody must have thought that I am the perfect person to offer my two-cent’s worth of wisdom to some wonderfully ambitious and young curators, otherwise I would not have been invited. They have done a lot to be able to attend this workshop, they expect to go home with lots of new and worthwhile knowledge and they surely do dream of becoming influential curators and this should be a stepping-stone in this dream. And I owe it to them (and to the workshop organizers) to do my very best to somehow enrich their lives and career through my presence.
I agonized for days about this. Then it struck me…
While I focus on my failures and on unrealised expectations, others see what I did have achieved and admire me for that. If I am totally honest, I also do believe that I have achieved a lot, maybe not always in the way I wanted, or with the results I hoped for, but still… Yet, there are also
many people who are critical (or openly hostile) about me, my art or what I am doing and how I am doing it. So to which of these groups should I give the stage?
None. Because both scare me in their own way. The positive ones, do not know or see my struggles and the negative ones only focus on what (according to them) I am doing wrong. I am the only true authority on my life, and even if my vision of it is sometimes rose-tinted and at others overcast with insecurities and doubts, I do have the main role in it and do know it best. It is not the critics who count, but my intentions, my efforts and me living my live wholeheartedly.
So, I could have told the story about my curatorial experiences just as I did above. Or I could take one step back, focus on the bigger picture, relate my intentions, my hopes and ideas, the challenges I faced and how I overcome them, or how and why I failed or succeeded. I could tell what I have learned. What I will do better or different next time. And most of all, I could tell how I moved on, started over, tried again. I realised that in my own way, I have collected interesting experiences, learned many skills worth sharing and found solutions where others just saw problems.
I have true in-depth knowledge about that. And I know that I have a great critical mind, which I can trust to guide me in being direct, honest and practical. And that is what I did and the story of my life which I shared. You can read more about how that was received in this previous blog.
While preparing for this, I realised that I do not want to look back at my life and tell the story of why things did not work out as I wished and how that is the reason for an unlived life and unhappiness.
I want to have the courage to do my best and if that did not work out, then try again and again and again. To have the courage to decide to live a life that feels purposeful and inspirational to me; with or without great achievements.
My father urged me to read the biography of George W. Carver (The Man Who Overcame). I decided to use my flight back from the Ukraine to start with it. I cried throughout most of the flight. It felt pretty embarrassing, but hey, what can a girl do who is extremely sensitive to the injustice of this world?!
Born into slavery (+-1860) with a wish to get an education and find the answers to his questions this young black child was determined to find a way. I lost count of how many dreadful experiences he had, how many huge obstacles he overcome and how hard he worked to get his schooling and finally be admitted to college on grounds of his extraordinary good marks, only to be rejected again when he arrived and they realised that he was black, and black men were not allowed to study there. Still he continued with an incredible amount of perseverance, hard work, patience and humility. Despite all odds, he went on to become one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time, he was also an extraordinary artist, botanist and pianist. And most of all he made a real contribution to the upliftment of his people and the fight against poverty… (If you have not heard of him, you should do yourself a favour and read the abovementioned book –also available in German – or check him out in this short movie http://www.biography.com/people/george-washington-carver-9240299#early-years )
I am telling you about this man, because he seemed to have everything counting against him. He would have had every possible excuse to feel sorry for himself and to curse at the cards he got dealt again and again. He could have blamed every thing and so many people for having a miserable life and everybody would nod and fully agree that he did not have a chance. Yet, he chose to overcome. To try again and again. He worked damn hard. He hurt and he doubted, yet he got up again and tried again. And even when he had all the fame and could have had all the fortune, he stayed humble, refused a salary increase for most of his life and worked till his death in search of ways to improve the lives of the people around him.
What a man! And what an inspiration! What a life well-lived!
If he could overcome all this and be such an inspiration to so many people, who am I to not at least try to live my life purposefully, content and try again and again. In comparison to him the obstacles I have had to face in my life faint into nothingness.
I believe we can all choose to overcome so many things. We can end up telling an exciting, uplifting and inspirational story of a life well lived and that is what I want to do. And every time I feel like giving up, I want to ask myself: is this the end of the story you want to tell about your life? Or is this the beginning of another awesome creative adventure?
I need reminding of this every now and then – that’s why I am putting it in writing here 😉 .