I’ve just been watching Netflix – one of our many options for streaming tv shows – and have finished a series of great documentaries about specific designers at the top of their fields.
The show was called ABSTRACT, and featured Christoph Niemann, an Illustrator, Bjarke Ingels, Architect. . .
and Paula Scher, Graphic Designer. . . to name just a few.
Oh my Laird, are these people talented! Just to watch they way they think and create is like subjecting oneself to a maelstrom of emotion. I soak up the ideas and the glorious clear pathway that they each espouse, and then – just like drinking too much whisky – get that hangover at the end. It happens much sooner than a normal hangover, in that it usually starts whilst still feeling amazed and euphoric.
I’ve fancied myself a designer/illustrator for years now, although much of that is in my head rather than realised in actuality. Some part of me is waiting for the realisation of my creative dreams still, as if the future awaits just around the corner if I will merely apply myself. And yet it has been half a lifetime since I leaned confidently against my drawing board expecting the world to open up soon.
The truth of the matter is; I am doing far less graphically than I ever did, and staring down the barrel of retirement age in a few years (not that THAT will make a jot of difference to me). So the first thought that surges through me upon watching a very talented person at the top of their game, (after that wee spike of envy,) is WHY AM I SO MEDIOCRE?
And then I calm myself with some sturdy advise that goes something like this:
- Are you unhappy or unfulfilled in what you are doing now, Jenny? (NO!)
- Do you have the unction to spend the hours and days these people live in order to continue ‘living their dream’? (No, again.)
- Do you see putting all your effort/passion into graphic art a true expression of what is important to you, Jenny? (Okay, no I don’t.)
Do you see where I’m going with this? If any of you reading my blog (and I’m talking to myself again as well) ever feel inclined to think less of yourself and to put your own expression and contribution down after seeing something as inspiring as this show, then this post is for you. We all know people we look up to and admire – as we should – for the huge contribution they are making to our world. Some are just like that: huge fiery beacons of light that blaze across the sky and make a difference we can all appreciate. But I remind myself that I also know some people who still make a difference although few know them and they themselves have never sought to be noticed. They are just kind, or generous, or caring, or faithful . . . any one of these quieter traits that don’t come with fanfare. And you know what? There’s room for us ALL.
I think I’ll just continue to be a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’ – and treasure the people I already have around me, and enjoy the ones too far out of reach to touch, and give myself a break. I’m going to remind myself to stop measuring myself up against others and feeling I’ve fallen short. (Something I’m sure many of us do.) There’s a clear balance between seeing someone’s inspiring work, and feeling the bubbling up of passion to do something as a result of it, and NOT turning it to a reflection of one’s own inadequacies. Thank God there are some very amazing people who have been so good at what they do, the rest of us are richer for it! (Diana Gabaldon and her glorious books!) But thank God for all the folks who – like me – dabble in the shallower waters and are still so exceptional and unique. You ARE the only one like you, expressing your personality and skills in a very particular way. I don’t believe for a moment that it’s true when someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not good at anything!’ Believing that is a sure fire way to nip your love of life in the bud.
I’m going to finish my rant with a gravestone I saw in Wigtown that amused me greatly at the time. ‘Useful’ is such a small word when describing one’s contribution in life, but I hope that at the very least, it could be my own epitaph too. ‘Jennifer Kay Jeffries, removed in the midst of her usefulness’.