30 something.

I’m taking 35 seriously. Or, heavily. Or calculated? It’s one of those milestone birthdays. But it’s also an age where you feel like ‘oh crap, am I getting old? Am I officially officially an adult? Am I even categorized as a young professional anymore? Will I be judged differently as a 35 year old? Am I where I planned to be at this age?’

It kind of freaks you out. Well, it’s freaking me out and has been since I turned 34. I’ve been so consumed by it that it’s almost hurried my year. I’ve gone back and forth about how I’ll celebrate, too. Do I have some big party? Would people come? Am I too old for that? Do I have my closest girlfriends over for wine and cheese and laughing? Do I announce myself as some #bossbabe and have a photoshoot in a sleek black cape and red lips? Is someone going to tell me it’s time to get a mammogram?

It dawned on me that I’ve always been waiting and I’ve always been a planner. Planning has been good to me but sometimes, and probably this time, it’s ok not to know. It’s ok to not have a plan. In fact, it’s probably better that way. When we’re in middle school we can’t wait for high school. In high school we are desperate for the freedom of college. In college, we just want a salary finally and a cute apartment to decorate. And then we just can’t wait until we can have (x) and live near (y) and be able to travel to (z). We work and on Mondays we can’t wait until Friday.

I don’t want to spend a lifetime waiting. I don’t want to waste my days wishing. I want to take risks. And say no when I don’t want to do something. And say yes when I know I do. Maybe I don’t have a concrete plan. Maybe I don’t know if there’s a certain space to be in at 35. Maybe I don’t have it all figured out. But my gift to myself… what I do know that I want, is to not waste a single day waiting for what’s next. Waiting to smile. Waiting to be called on. Waiting for some big break. Waiting to try something I've been wanting to try.

But rather knowing that the world is mine. My life is mine and I'm in charge of it. AND, that it's OK not having all of it figured out. That we, especially women, beat ourselves up so much and keep ourselves stagnant. Waiting. Wishing. I don't want to do that anymore. Cheers to whatever's next and to taking life by the horns. You only get one on earth anyway. So, do stuff. Try stuff. Dye your hair if you've been wanting to. Wear the dark lipstick. Quit the job. Take the trip. Have the baby. Act on the idea. Take a spa day. Even if it's laying in your car in the backseat using a quarter tank of gas with music playing because you can't really afford a spa day. Just do the thing, that one thing that keeps lurking. No more waiting.



The Mornings After

I feel different on these mornings. My routine is pretty normal. I get up, get the girls ready, do drop-offs, etc. and head to the coffee shop. But this is the third morning this year that standing in line at the coffee shop feels different. Walking in feels strange. Smiling and saying 'hi' to colleagues feels different. They're mornings after a killing of a black person. A black person like me. They're mournings.

When white people smile at me these mornings, I don't know if that's a quiet way of saying 'I acknowledge what happened last night.' I can't tell what people are trying to say with their eyes; I want them to say it out loud. When I see people laughing and enjoying the morning I wonder if they saw the news. When I don't hear comments and see Facebook posts about why this is not ok, my feelings are hurt. It's just a different kind of morning. But all three have felt the same. They feel lonely. Sensitive. They feel defeated. They feel angry. They feel sad. They feel threatened. Scared. Pissed.

And because of my position in Indy I immediately think ok, what needs to happen. What public conversation can I construct (again) that will allow us open dialogue about racism? What will help? What can I do? And then I think, why is it my role to help others understand how I feel? To justify my mourning? Why aren't they attempting to help more? And to do it over and over again. To strategize beyond a diversity clause? What is the reason? Sure it is my role but not mine alone.

The last morning I felt this way I sat in my car confused and overwhelmingly sad, right outside of The Garden Table in Broad Ripple. I watched privileged people - like me - enjoy expensive breakfasts and talk about their light evenings. I couldn't walk in. I almost wanted to say "didn't you just come from the funeral, too?" I wondered what I should be teaching my girls. I wondered about the safety of the black men in my life - ones who are big and look like "bad dudes." I questioned everything. 

I got a couple texts from friends that said my life mattered to them. It seemed as if someone I knew died. A family member, maybe. And that's how the white people in my life treated it. With a nice message about how things will get better and almost a "get well soon" vibe. It's interesting. That night I looked out of my window and thought about the KKK and if/when they'd make a stronger comeback. Legit thoughts.

It's hard to describe these mornings but they have become distinct. It's a flurry of emotions that range from a sense of abandonment, to creativity, to a sense of generally being fed up. The problem with these mornings is that the feeling doesn't linger for long. A week from now, I'll be fine again. Everyone will. And Terence Crutcher's family will be mourning alone. It's just not enough. 



A talk with Samuel Vasquez.

I had the honor of sitting down with graffiti artist, Samuel Vazquez. Talking to him for an hour nearly blew me away. I learned so much about the art of graffiti, where it started, and got a glimpse into the work of this very special artist.  Vazquez has announced that he won’t show any more of his work in Indy.  I’ll help to explain why.

Vazquez moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1979. He remembers being very depressed because there were no trees, no leaves; the city was brown because of all the tall brick buildings and the sky was gray.  It was a different world from the one in which he grew up. He learned to love it and got his start at being an artist in New York City, studying at the NYC College of Technology in Brooklyn. In 1991, the rent at his apartment in the city went from $700 a month to $1,400. So, he moved to Indianapolis.

There was a gradual, 20-year span between being a graphic designer and a graffiti artist. Now, he considers himself an abstract expressionist painter.  I wanted to know more about the graffiti world. I asked why some don’t respect it as an art form. Vazquez explained that the first known graffiti artist was an African American boy named “Corn Bread.” He tagged his name on walls and open spaces. Vazquez believes that because of who the artist was and because he wasn’t expected to be the type to create, the art form wasn’t called art and was not respected.

Writers (graffiti artists) began their work as a result of the economic and social climate of their environment. This started at a time when inner cities were economically void, parents worked two jobs each and weren’t home. Kids, then, had no supervision. Social and artistic programs were cut from schools. Children had no outlet and black and Hispanic children especially, had no place. Graffiti art began as a way to offer a voice to a segment of the community that was seemingly invisible. Vazquez said that writers needed a sense of worth. They would write their name on buildings as if to say “you will know my name even if you don’t see me.”

It didn’t take long to criminalize these writers instead of determining that it came from their social structure and fixing that. “The graffiti world is a community. It just came from a place that was unexpected.”

Vazquez says that because the roots of graffiti art come from social and economic injustice, it doesn’t work in Indy. It isn’t authentic. Here, the graffiti artists look like the majority. “If I come to a building owner and ask to put a piece on their wall, they look at me like I’m a criminal. But when the kids do it here, since they look like the majority - it’s more accepted. So in a sense, even though the kids are mastering the techniques of graffiti, it’s great. But it’s not the same because of the context of their environment - that’s not the environment from which graffiti was born,” says Vazquez.

When Samuel wonders why he’s never been invited to participate in the graffiti shows happening around town, he guesses it’s because they’re “not coming from truth.” “It’s kind of like Elvis. Elvis wasn’t the king, he was just the vehicle to take black dances and black passionate music and make money off of it. It’s not the truth.”

Recently Vazquez has determined that he won’t show the same piece of artwork to the same audience twice.  After five solo shows in Indy, with different work at each show, (the artists admits that in order to maintain his sanity, he cannot show the same body of work over and over and over) he has decided to leave Indianapolis.  “I won’t show the same painting twice in the same city. I’ve decided not to show any more work in Indy. It’s time to move on. There are other places that I’d like to explore.  I need culture. I don’t want the same person to see the same piece twice.  Someone has already seen it here.”