Thanks, Jesse: Proposals, pauses, and perspective

Last week, Jesse, an American soldier in Afghanistan, sent me a sketch for DrawHappy, a project I started in December 2010 where people can draw what makes them happy. (Sheesh, that sounded redundant. How about “embody their sources of joy and elation through illustration?” Better?)


In his email, he wrote, “I know the scan doesn’t meet the requested requirements, short on resources out here.” (I usually ask for jpegs, and he sent a pdf.) I screamed to my computer, “Oh who cares about my requested requirements?! You drew a bluebird in the barracks in Afghanistan! And you sent it to me!” Hurray!

I know this is a piece among the many amazing drawings sent to me, but I will remember this (among numerous others) because of the timing. In the past two months, I’ve been neck deep in grant proposal writing, an activity that I find only slightly more agonizing than a root canal. My shotgun-like prolificness that were the two years at SVA, which seem like five years instead of five months ago, has slowed down into pockets of dreaming that have not been helped by tropical inertia. Because that is what these applications are: dreams. Intangible ones where you have to know what you want to make and how long and what it’s for and what are the things you previously did for them to even consider you and how your project is going to be amazing so please for the love of all things wonderful, pick me! These are pricey dreams, which require time, willpower, and a considerable FedEx allowance. They are infinitely less rewarding than actually going ahead and making them, but alas! you need the powers that be to say yes so you’ll have time and resources to actually execute them. And so this nail-biting process continues.

These are dreams that have yet to be realized. But still, they are the only things I have right now.

I’ve had times like these before—the downtimes and the in-between stages. I’ve learned to appreciate them because they are the spots when new ideas come and poke you and they sound crazy but you’re unstructured enough to do them anyway and realize that you do want to keep them and they become a part of you. But still, there are acute moments of suckiness and despair and isolation and un-belongingness.

I’m glad I’m on the tail end of this stage, and I’m so excited for the next step. (Eee!)

So in these last few months, few things can perk me up such as another human being reaching out to me (or at least a community I’ve built). Especially from one who is probably away from loved ones (although hey, I can only guess since we’ve never met). Whatever low points I feel, here in the city that I at least know, is nothing compared to what soldiers go through. Looking back, I’m happy that, stickler as I am for context, I asked people not just to draw, but to describe the moment of drawing. It makes me imagine the situations they are in, and realize that insightful and creative reflection can come out of any moment, be it favorable or not.

Like most creative people will tell you, the best projects they do are the ones they do for themselves. Whether they touch others or not, the first thing that happens is that the project sustains the creator herself. While this remains a side project, it’s probably the one that will throw me curve balls and surprises for years to come.

I love that the Internet can just cheer you up with a bluebird and give you perspective, just like that.

Thanks, Jesse.

P.S. And to you who are reading this, go draw what makes you happy! Visit the site here.

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