What’s Next?

Each year during the week of Thanksgiving my husband’s family gathers at the beach. We walk in the water, play games, eat all the carbs, and watch as our children run feral for the week. It’s also a time when my thoughts turn to the next year of work.

As I look back over 2017, I recognize that I crossed a big item off of my bucket list: I had an art show. As of this writing, all twenty one pieces are still hanging at the gallery. I’ve felt all the pride, gratitude, and disbelief as I’ve had throughout the process. But as with all big life goals, now that I’ve achieved it, there’s a metaphorical question mark dangling over my head. What’s next?

I embarked on the quest for the show because it was a huge fear for me. A fear that I wasn’t a “real” artist. I thought having an art show with my name on the wall would legitimize me and my art in a way that little else could. Spoiler alert, I’m only as validated as I let myself feel. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the validation and that my show was so timely given current events and the subject matter, but how I feel about who I am and what I do hasn’t changed. I knew it would be like that. I’m both a bit chagrined by it and comforted by it at the same time.

This past year has been a study in contrasts. On one hand, I had the beauty of working toward and celebrating a life goal. On the other hand, I’ve closed out a chapter in my life where I was the president of the board for a nonprofit. I am still struggling to figure out if I did everything I could do to leave that organization in a good place, if it was possible for me to do more or be better at it somehow. Because these two things happened simultaneously, August and September were among the hardest months of my life. Months where I was wracked with self-doubt, questions, and fear. I thought many times about what it would look like to just stop showing up every day, and whether or not I could actually get away with it.

But now I’m on the other side. Hopefully I’m a bit wiser and measured. In some ways I trust myself more, and in some ways I trust myself less. I am surer of my art but less sure of where I fit. So I know one of the things I’ll be doing this next year is exploring that.

So how do I go about deciding what to do next?

I start with my intentions. Where do I want to be of service this next year? Where can I expand my skills as an artist? Where can I engineer things so that I can I spend time with people I care about? Where do I want to spend my energies? What will my intention word be for this next year?

My word last year was “wait.” It was so timely and necessary. “Wait” has had such a huge impact on me. I’ve waited on things to change. I’ve waited on God to show God’s self to me. I’ve waited on people to do the things they need to do so I could do the things I needed to do. I’ve waited on so many things and tried to learn patience and grace in the waiting. So I’m thinking about what my word for 2018 will be because the word can both inform what I do or be a prognosticator at times.

I already know one project I’ll be embarking on. I can’t talk about it just yet, but it’s a biggie, so it’ll be a big focus for me this next year.

I don’t plan to start another big art project/series. I may spend some time completing one-off pieces loosely associated with this show. Several phrases have come up in conversation with women that would be a good side project to the work. I feel like this show is complete, but I also am hearing so many new phrases that I don’t want to leave them just yet.

At the beginning of last year, I knew I would be embarking on two big projects. I ended up with three. I’m not looking to take on more than that because my kids are of an age where much of what they do demand my taxi services every afternoon. So while I have a huge chunk of time to work between 7:30 and 3, after 3 I am all mom.

So those are the things I’m thinking about this week. I’ll let them simmer until Christmas and then make some decisions after the holidays are done. How do you set goals for a new year or new chapter?