Art about Navigating Life Changes

Dear Friend, 

Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” 

In April of 2014, I moved to Livingston, MT, to pursue my career in art. I rented the most adorable 1 bedroom apartment that had a living room divided partially into two spaces, and I knew it would be the most amazing spot to pursue my practice of making art, and living an artist’s life.

It was a beautiful time full of promise and practice. I would get up every morning at 7, start the coffee pot, and begin painting right away. I was learning so much, and I was pushing my skill level through structured practice via still lifes, books, and lessons I explored. I still worked part time as a bartender at the local brewery, so I was able to get out of my own space and get to know people. As well, I had a good time going out with friends fairly often to enjoy all that the Livingston night-life has to offer. 

As time went on and I became full time self-employed I found myself needing a studio space somewhere other than literally right next to my bedroom. I desired the need to put real pants on and go out into the world to start my work day, instead of finding myself day after day, at 2:00 in the afternoon, coming out of a coffee fueled art-coma, still wearing pajamas and not having brushed my teeth. So, I got my first studio space with my friend Grace, and we had a really grand time there.

Eventually, my space needs became different, and so with a good bit of luck, I found another studio space in downtown Livingston. I spent about 3 years in that sunlit space, painting and businessing, and listening to every.single.moth.podcast every made. And most of This American Life. 

And now, I find myself back at a home-based studio. It is a choice I made for a lot of reasons: I had a desire to simplify and really focus on prioritizing a business model that isn’t brick and mortar. It only made sense to use the rent money differently.  And, in honesty, I struggle with self care, and pictured being at home a way to make this much easier. 

So, I spent all of January moving and going through stuffs and tying up loose ends. It is easy (albeit somewhat begrudging work) to make big changes when you are in the process. Loading up the car and hauling supplies from one place to another is a task of necessity. But when I finished it all this week, I all of a sudden had these intense feelings of fear, doubt, and a bit of a “what just happened?” mixed in with my relief and excitement for the next phase.

Change never comes without some resistance, even when it is change we desire and know is right for us. I was struggling with this stuff today, and started talking to my husband about it, and I realized that all the things I was telling him about, all my fears (like, for example, that I’ll turn into a lazy slug who doesn’t actually put work towards her businesses) are just that. They’re just fears, and, in fact, they really don’t hold weight if I look back on the story of who I am and have been to this day. 

Which made me look at and ponder my River Flow painting for a little while. It is super weird to admit that the meaning of that painting, while I had some idea of it at the time I painted it, has just now become actually, very clear to me. It is not just about getting through life, flowing with it. It is about how to actively manage the many thoughts that come with big life changes. The river is flowing (a symbol of change) and the boat symbolizes the stories of my life, and my identity. If I remember my story, and who I am, I can navigate the changes with a sense of empowerment and determination. When a stray thought tries to tell me, “hey, now you’re just a homebody with no real drive,” I can look to my ship and see- that story has never really applied, and doesn’t fit here either. And, in addition, I can look to my boat and remember who I am and where I’ve been- and how I’ve gotten this far.

Holy heck, if you’ve read this far, I hope it was at all worth it. Blogging can be a nightmare, but tonight… I was feeling kind of raw and just wanted to get after it with honesty. Let me know in the comments if this spoke to you in anyway. I’ll probably be hiding out for a couple of days in what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover.” Send snacks. :) 


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  • Kay on

    Hi Lauren! Jeez, thank you for this comment. I think you are so right that it is never the same river, and thanks for helping me to further understand what our relationship to drive <3.
    Update: feeling pretty good about it these days :D.

  • Lauren on

    This really spoke to me! Thanks for being vulnerable and making me go introspective! I think as entrepreneurs we naturally have a drive and work ethic that’s stronger than average. That’s why some people start their own business but quickly close up shop! So for us, to think that with all the change, we may not live up to our drive is an easy hole to fall into. I find that every time my business goes through a major change and I in turn go through a major change on how I relate to my business, I always have a few weeks or months of feeling like I’m slacking or not doing what I “should”. But that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, it looks different every day, and there’s no job description (not the same river!) so when we have an easier week we have to remember all the times we put in 70-80 hours in a week or whatever that equates to for you in your line of work vs. mine. Thanks for sharing and opening the conversation!

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