March 16, 2020 was the last day I worked at the restaurant I was serving at. I didn’t know if I would be able to go back to working in this environment since I am the parent of an immunosuppressed child. Like most people I was unsure of what was to come. Unlike most people I knew that things were going to be different for a while.
How did I know everything was going to change?
As I stated previously I am the parent of an immunosuppressed child; I am also a health science major. So I had some inside perspective into medical phenomenon, knowing there was rather contagious novel virus that has made its way around the world… let’s say I had a feeling we were in for a new normal.
We rearranged our lives and adapted to being at home for almost everything.
After a year of this we our now having to relearn how to interact and have the opportunity to emerge from our daily comforts of home. Some now able to be around in groups maskless if vaccinated. This will be a slow re-entry for many after so much restriction and caution from this invisible enemy.
Hopefully, some of what we learned in this time will stick with us and hopefully we remember the impacts we make on each other after this year on unknowns and emerging science.
I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.
But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.
Taxes aren’t inherently bad.
The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.
In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.
But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.
I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.
Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?
Protecting/conserving the environment
Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
Educating people well
Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)
Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.
If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.
In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?
What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?
The Brooklyn Art Library, “a free museum where you can touch the art,” regularly offers a really cool opportunity, called the Sketchbook Project.
On a whim, I decided to participate in vol. 14. The process goes like this: purchase a sketchbook (a modest 5″x7″, my favorite size), and choose whether you would like your sketchbook to be included in the digital library (of course, yes, please). Receive your adorable, simple, blank sketchbook in the mail. Do something. Send it back by the deadline.
You can send your sketchbook back later than the deadline (vol. 14 needed to be postmarked by March 30th), but collections of the latest volume usually go on tour somewhere before arriving at their forever home in Brooklyn. Late arrivals will still be accepted at the Library, but will miss out on the tour portion of the project. Selections from the vol. 14 collection are going to cities around the U.S., including Brooklyn (of course), Boston, Providence, St. Petersburg, Washington D.C., Richmond, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Part of my motivation for participating in this project was marketing. I’m trying to pursue several blogs and other ideas, and I thought this would be a really interesting way to (potentially) draw some attention to those prospects.
But it ended up being something very different.
It became more a form of therapy than anything. When I opened it, I was faced with blank pages, and the fear of messing up, of people seeing the opposite of what I wanted. I was afraid that my ideas weren’t interesting enough, or that my art wouldn’t be good enough. I was afraid that I was going to end up wasting my time and embarrassing myself.
I didn’t know how to start, but I had to do something with this book while I had it. So I did what I’ve been doing pretty much nonstop for the last four years: I started writing. Now, I hadn’t actually written consistently by hand for a long time. It had been even longer since I had written words in pencil–something smudgy and impermanent and so forgiving. I wrote before I went to sleep, random thoughts floating around in my tired brain.
The first page was unfortunate. It was clogged with anxiety and insecurities. But, as I went along, the pages became more optimistic, more reflective, more abstract. I added color, changed up the style and direction of the text. I sketched.
And then something amazing happened.
“Through the Mists” throws my and my partner’s old live-action role play characters into alternate universes, for new and exciting adventures.
“York” and “Talitha” in a Supernatural-esque world (with his dog, and a snazzy 1962 Ford Falcon station wagon).
Concept/cover art for a “Monster of the Week” style RPG and potential episodic podcast, now titled “What Lies Beyond”.
I completed the first full, inked composition I had done, probably since 2012 (seven years ago!) when I was at the Perpich Arts High School. I wasn’t entirely sure that I still had the know-how–but then it worked. I created another, and another.
I posted pictures of my work to a group on Facebook and got the very unambiguous reply: “do more of this.”
I want to.
Through the process of letting go and allowing myself the time and space to just doart, I rediscovered some of the self-confidence I had lost, and improved my immediate outlook on life. It was a little sad to part with the sketchbook, but I’m excited to see it again in the digital library, and for people to look at it and touch it and think about it in-person, across the country.
Toward the end of the time I had left to work on it, I traced my hand on an open page. I hope that many more people will place their hands in that outline. Maybe the page will yellow with their fingerprints.
I may have to go to New York someday to find out.
If you want to explore your own process, and share something of yourself with the world, vol. 15 is now available. 🙂
Over the weekend, my boyfriend, Rick, described to me a population of people who call themselves “makers” — they don’t just do any one craft, he said; they do all kinds of things to make whatever they want.
To which I replied, “True story.”
To give you some background, I have been making things since I was… born? Age eight was when I first learned how to sew and embroider, but I was drawing long before then, and each additional craft I learned thereafter came pretty naturally to me. I’m not a master at anything, but if you give my hands something to do, man, they’ll do it.
Rick, in contrast, is a tech guy. He’s clever, a good storyteller, and he knows his way around just about anything that runs on electricity, but when it comes to hands-on making, he doesn’t quite have the coordination to do what he envisions. When I watch him try to draw or sculpt–or chop vegetables–I can tell he has a lot of the theoretical knowledge it takes to make things, but he hasn’t spent the majority of his life practicing.
There is no one recipe for what a maker is or does, and the level of skill they have to execute their projects varies, but they all have one thing in common: they make things. And, now that we are living in The Future, there are quite a few makers who have branched into the realm of 3D printing.
Rick loves 3D printing. His 3D printers (he has two of them now) are little robots who do his artistic bidding. Any problems with the quality of the crafts they put out can be improved by a hardware modification here, a software modification there. It’s been fun to witness his excitement and creativity.
A community of other 3D-printing-savvy makers help to keep Rick and his little robots busy, day and night, through a website called Thingiverse. Thingiverse contains not only free 3D printing files for a vast assortment of objects, but also an active community of makers ready to give each other pointers on how to use the files, and improve the ease and quality of printing.
As an example, Rick downloaded the file for a dice tower (the two of us are also nerds who play D&D 😉 ), but he noticed that there was an issue with the design: one section of the tower printed with a solid top, which isn’t particularly useful if you expect dice to drop all the way through. Other makers had noticed the same issue, and the person who originally posted the file responded to their concerns by creating and distributing an updated version of the design, which fixed the problem.
Thingiverse offers an array of files for toys, gifts, tools, containers, miscellaneous parts, printer modifications, and just about anything else you can think of, but it is an especially exciting resource for those of us who play tabletop games like D&D. The makers of Thingiverse allowed us to take a two-dimensional map with dry-erase lines and turn it into a little three-dimensional world (which will become even more detailed once we 3D print ourselves a few extra tools to make sanding and painting easier).
A lot of the scenery you see here was made with free files available on Thingiverse:
For all those who heard me whine about feeling left out because Centro chose not to publish a blog, I have news! Centro Guadalupano will be publishing a permanent version of the blog created as a private blog.
After I finish this post, I will begin to transfer all the blog posts to a public site for Centro Guadalupano. Proof positive that you can make change happen by moving foward! I think the blog will be very helpful and draw people to the organization.