In that light, here are a few of my 'goals,' for this year and for my life as a whole:
Growing up, I would probably rate my imagination and creativity as the intellectual skill that I possessed that I was most proud of. I wrote a 275-page novel in middle school (about anthropomorphic animals in a medieval-fantasy setting, if you were curious, haha), and would happily spend hours playing on my own in the woods behind my house. When I was the loneliest due to being a bullied social outcast, it was imagination that became my sanity and friend. I learned early on to be self-reliant, independent, and unafraid of self-reflection from those hours alone.
Now as an adult, imagination feels like a pretty undervalued skill to have. I feel like in the past few years I've lost a lot of the creativity that used to sustain me as a younger person. I'd like to try to regain that sense of imagination as much as I can going forward. The world is such an amazing place, and creativity is the best lens through which to contemplate, appreciate, and share the beauty around us. I'd like to start writing again more fiction again, as that's something that I used to love so, so much and haven't done a lick of since high school.
Keep Making Art
(I'll admit it; the first time I watched this video I cried. The images this guy produces are just unbelievable)
This is a corollary to the previous goal, as art-making is by far my most developed outlet for creativity at the moment. It's hard to describe the central role art has taken on for me in the past few years. It's been ironic to go to a school like Stanford and have my most meaningful academic experience by far in the Art department... but such is life. Art, and especially photography, has given me so many amazing memories that I probably would have never experienced otherwise: big things like a frosty sunrise on the Grand Canyon and hiking solo through rural northern Greece, but also (and more importantly) small miracles like remembering to appreciate the surreal white-glowed beauty of a starry night, the way images miraculously float up out of nowhere onto the paper in the darkroom, and the amazing moments when the film reveals a world that is more complete than that visible to the naked eye.
The next years are going to be critical for me as an artist; I won't have the easy set up of the Stanford lab or the structured support of classes and faculty. It will be a test of commitment to even keep going, let alone maintain the levels of work I've been producing for the last few years. I've been toying with the idea of graduate school a lot in the past months, and I think my ability to keep making art in the next few wilderness years will be as good a test as any to see if that would be a good idea.
Stay Adventurous, Stay Fearless
(I've shared this before but it's still a favorite video)
I can't count the number of times I've heard my friends complain in recent weeks about how 'now that we've graduated, we'll never be able to travel or have big adventures again.' I admit it, I've even said and thought it myself. But why does that have to be true? Obviously now I have to start being more self-reliant financially and won't have big blocks of free time like summer vacation at my disposal, but that hardly means that I have to settle down into a cubicle and never see the world again. There is still time to travel, to see new and amazing things, and to do with with people I love. Just as with the art, it will simply take more commitment to do going forward than it did in the past. But that doesn't mean it can't be done.
(Me and my Stanford bestie, Clare)
And Of Course... Stay in Love with Horses
(Another video that has a high probability of making me cry, in the best possible way)
It sounds melodramatic, but I'm not sure I would be alive today without horses. I have faced some very, very dark times in my life, and horses have always been what has saved me. I've loved them ever since I can remember thinking, from admiring my mother's statues of horses in our dining room as the wee-est toddler to my first pony ride at age 3. They are magic; there is no other way to describe it. I've been so unbelievably busy in my life of late that riding has had to take the back burner, which I'm all right with at the moment, but any life path that takes me away from horses for long periods of time or permanently is the wrong one, no questions asked. I'm so excited that my next adventure looks horsier than ever.
So that's what I've been turning over in my mind as I face the prospect of 23 and beyond. It's clear that hard days and hard work lie ahead, but I'm feeling ready to take on the challenge. As my favorite single song lyric of all time reads:
the future is still bleak, uncertain...