Getting Into the Art Supplies, Growing Up
This is a portion of a longer conversation going on in Our women only forum thread on my Body Conscious article in the Muay Thai Roundtable forum. The women only section is a semi-private space for women to feel more comfortable to discuss among ourselves all kinds of topics, but generally the internet is an incredibly unfriendly place to women and this section of the forum has proven itself to be a relief to just give women a place where we can more openly express ourselves. This excerpt is my own response and does not expose the overall discussion taking place there, but I thought it was worth selecting out and posting here because I think it’s an experience that many people can relate to.
from the thread:
…I was responding to your belated permission to yourself for playing with the art supplies. When I was in school, from elementary onward, all my teachers just assumed I would be a writer. Like, it wasn’t even a question. I hated that and didn’t want to be a writer at all. Writing seemed like being an artist and being an artist seemed like something I would never want to do be because the idea of having what you love to do and what feeds you, inextricably tied to what stresses you because it literally allows you to eat or not… it wasn’t something I wanted to even get near. My mom is an artist, through and through, but she works an administrative assistant job that she’s about to retire from after 28 years or so. My parents never had jobs they found meaningful and my dad was sometimes out of work, so my mom’s stress was really high and her art was this one outlet she had. Finding a few hours per week in which she could workshop with friends in an informal artist group kind of thing was just what she could scrap together after all the other shit she had to do. I asked her once, when trying to justify the life I’ve chosen, to imagine how wonderful it would be if she could just write every day. She said the idea scared her. And that scared me.
So it’s been really beautiful and also terrifying that my art has become my work and vice versa. Running the website and Patreon, writing during any waking moment that I’m not training or fighting or creating other content – it’s exactly what I never wanted to be and yet it’s the only thing I could ever really be. Everyone knew except me. But so I think about you looking longingly at those art supplies and rationalizing to yourself whether or not you deserve to play with them because you aren’t “good,” or whatever… we do this all the time to ourselves. I’m not actually “good” at Muay Thai. I have to work really hard and I’m a slow bloomer, but I get to play with it every single day and it makes me so happy. And by dedicating myself to it and being open about it, I know people like you all the way across the world – there is a community of women in Muay Thai that is global and incredible and it’s JUST by doing it anyway – regardless of all the reasons why we “shouldn’t” do it – that we can connect. This thing about not wanting my art to be mixed with the insane stress of my livelihood, I realize now that’s a pretty immature fear. Kevin and I recently re-watched that Pixar movie “Inside/Out” (my favorite) and it’s just so profoundly relevant. The immature emotional experience of separating out what is a “happy” memory versus what is a “sad” memory has to give way to the blended experience of the real world. There’s joy and sadness in a single experience. A kid has 5 crayons but an adult has a whole color palette that can be blended to create very refined shades; you can suffer and find meaning in those details. And that’s the best bit, really.
So all this blah-blah is about how I support you in grabbing those damn art supplies, but I also think this connects back to how we experience our own bodies. It doesn’t have to be either yellow or blue; you can be dissatisfied and empowered in the same skin. I find good moments and embarrassing moments in every single fight – I never feel just one thing about any of my fights. They are potent, complex experiences and being in one’s own body is exactly the same. Learning how to “play” is the most profound lesson I’ve ever undertaken in my life – something that is so natural and easy when we’re kids and then we have to re-learn it as we age. Finding joy with all the other shit going on. That’s getting into the art supplies; that’s finding joy in both what your body does and in how it feels.
This isn’t necessarily a full thought or a beginning-middle-conclusion type blog post, it’s just here as an anchor point to this thought about giving ourselves permission to pursue things despite not being “good” at them. There’s a boy at my gym who does not have a good singing voice by any stretch, but he sings loud and proud along to the music that plays over the stereo because it feels good to him to sing. Be that guy.