Yesterday I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum, frankly, to get some inspiration, because apparently I’m quite cliché. Honestly, though, I don’t care about that because I finally had a day off work, and there was an exhibit that I’ve been wanting to see for quite awhile.
Additionally, I just wanted to get out of the house and out of my daily routine. I find myself in a constant state of discontent. I’m always thinking about the future and not in a healthy way. I always focus on getting out of this place, this current situation that I’m in. One of the things that I’ve been trying to focus on though is cultivating joy and focusing on my now, because as much as I would love to jet off to Iceland to escapade around in ice caves or sail off to the Caribbean to get some last much needed sun as we face the brutal Wisconsin winter with shorter days, less sunlight, and biting winds (and apparently snow in October), it’s clear that if I’m not happy in my everyday life, then I’m clearly not happy period.
So, there I was trying to cultivate joy and break through the rut of my everyday. Additionally, something I’ve recently noticed about myself is that if I’m not constantly searching for knowledge, creativity, and curiosity, my life feels like it is at a stand still. So, there I was pushing myself to change it up a bit and hopefully something positive would come from it.
Thankfully, I was successful. As cliché as it is, I was indeed inspired at the art museum. Now, of course, I’m no artist, and I’m no art snob either. However, I find that art museums are just as much for the everyday person as they are for the artist. If anything, they are, in some ways, more for the everyday person. We need something that will bring us out of the daily grind of things (not that artists don’t have daily grinds).
The exhibit that I had been longing to see was “Portrait of Milwaukee.” It was a collection of photographs from the 1910s to the 1980s. It was a capture of the everyday in Milwaukee during those decades. Truth be told, when I first heard about it, I was immediately fascinated. I have always been fascinated by Milwaukee’s history, its culture, and the struggles it has had in terms of race and segregation. Maybe that is one of the reasons that I choose to continue staying here. I feel like Milwaukee has so many stories to tell, and I want to hear them all.
And stories this exhibit told. It was absolutely fascinating. I wanted to soak it all in. Seemingly everyday people became beacons of the importance it is to remember to live in the everyday, because everyday things still have meaning. Our lives are much less made up of pivotal moments than they are in the everyday. I used to be the person that longed for the pivotal moments (I guess I still am in a way). I longed to have brilliant discoveries, come in contact with magnificently beautiful places. Perhaps that’s one of the driving forces of my longing for travel, and I still long for that travel, because travel means that I get to constantly get curious and to learn.
But let’s be real here, our lives are made up of mostly everyday moments that seem meaningless. But I want to advocate for meaning, as since I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety, I’ve realized that the grand majority of my unhappiness comes from this expectation that my life needs to be filled with pivotal moments. I don’t fully embrace the everyday moments that actually truly make up my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and exploring. I love and embrace those pivotal moments. I will continue to search them out because they mean that I get to continue being curious, continue discovering, and continue learning, all things that are massively important to me and beneficial to my well being.
However, everyday things need to be embraced as well. For example, the job I’m currently in does not challenge me enough and honestly, it doesn’t pay me enough for my qualifications and my intelligence. However, I don’t have the financial means or the mental capacity to face the instability of looking for and switching to a new job. So, I must stay in this job, despite how unhappy I feel about it sometimes. I’m the main administrative assistant for an ESL program on a university campus. I would much rather be teaching ESL or French than doing entry-level administrative work. However, I’m trying to focus more on the fact that I still get to work with those students and help them navigate life, even if it’s not in the capacity that I prefer.
Additionally, despite how little I’m getting paid, I have been asked to take on additional tasks that aren’t even in my job description. Though this is frustrating because I should really be getting paid extra for tutoring some of our lower level students and coordinating some of the graduate extra curricular events, I face the reality that I’m not nor will I be. So, I’m trying to focus on the fact that I still get to help students, and I’m going to have a killer resume for whenever I do look for another job.
Additionally, at the basic level, I can provide for myself. I do have everything I need, and even though I’m very stressed and worried about upcoming student loans that I’ll have to start paying in January, I still have everything that I need. I have an apartment that I’m able to pay rent on time every month for without worrying that the check will bounce (and I live by myself, which is an added luxury these days for people of my generation). I’m able to heat this apartment without fear that I won’t be able to pay my utility bill. I’m able to feed myself and luxuriously so. As a pro-organic, pro- fair trade vegetarian, I am able to choose to buy slightly more expenses things that are better for my body and the environment. I do recognize this privilege. I have clothes to wear in all seasons. I can still occasionally enjoy going out with my friends. I’m well off compared to many people.
I was reminded of all of this, staring at all of these photographs. My everyday is not too shabby, and I need to embrace it, finding the joy in the small things.
It also made me think about what my everyday would look like if someone were to go around taking candid portraits of me and my life. Would I be proud of what I saw? Would I be okay with and even love what I saw? Would I be proud to see myself looking overworked and depressed all the time? Truthfully, probably not, and that’s a harsh reality to recognize. I’d like to imagine that those photographs would be captured moments of me smiling, laughing, or even quietly embracing.
And all of these thoughts just kept flowing through my mind as I came across other art pieces that challenged my thinking. That’s the whole point and beauty of an art museum, right?
I came across this installation entitled “Rainbow Bridge” by an artist by the name of Olafur Eliasson. I know literally nothing about this artist or even anything about glass art. But I appreciated it, was fascinated by it, enthralled by it. “Rainbow Bridge” was intentionally meant to challenge our viewpoint. As I stared at my upside down self changing into the vibrant colors of the rainbow as I walked along towards the end where I ended right side up with the black out point of view, I realized that this is how life is.
Sometimes, we truly are upside down. We’ve lost control. We feel like our perceptions are out of whack. We are trying to grip for normalcy, but we can’t, because we are freaking upside down. But then there are vibrant colors, and throughout those vibrant moments we continue to be upside down, until we get to the end, where everything is all blacked out, despite being right side up.
And the reality and life lesson is this: life is upside down and probably always will be and the future feels like we will be right side up if we just continue to strive for it. But the future is black, it’s unknown, and we will just continue to be in darkness if we continue to strive for an unknown reality when we have a now to live. Additionally, though the now is upside down and wonky, sometimes even painful, it’s filled with vibrant rainbow colors.
And this is how I want to focus on living my everyday.
So, no I’m not traveling the world or being the exotic expat that I love being right now. Nor will I be writing about that, at least for awhile, but I am writing about discovery, which is what I originally intended for this blog to be, even if it’s just everyday discovery.
It’s just about my everyday life here in Milwaukee. Besides, I will always advocate for discovering your own city, because everyday life is still worth exploring.
So, let’s explore, shall we?