I have been thinking and thinking about this post. A couple weeks ago I jotted down several ideas for my next “Courage to Grow” post and I was excited about them. I was planning to use one of those ideas…but then Tuesday happened and I felt a shift and the need to write something different. As I’m writing now, I’m not sure my thoughts will come across, but I hope they will in a small way and that my mind jumble will focus itself.
On Tuesday morning I set off with the kids on the metro to grab homemade poptarts from our favorite place in Capitol Hill and then make our way to the Museum of American History. On the way over our conversation was surprising. I was stressing about keeping the kids from falling down escalators and not getting in people’s way and Scarlett was asking me about people we saw around us…that we always see…sitting on benches, or floors, smiling at us and saying “God Bless You”. She was asking about our neighborhood’s homeless. We always smile and say hello because I want my children to be kind, but other than that, I hardly ever think to look very far past my immediate crazy of keeping the kids from endangering themselves and commuters. On the train, where we all had to stand and hold on and I focused on that, Scarlett continued to ask me questions about homeless people. I let her know we would talk about it once we were off the train and she remembered. We talked a bit about hardships in life, touched on some poverty challenges that face our country and I tried to be age appropriately honest. As we were walking to our breakfast spot we passed a man outside of 7-11. He started talking to us and said we were a queen and princess. We smiled, said thank you and after a couple seconds, continued our walk. As we were about to leave our breakfast spot with our poptarts for the park, I felt a desire to buy one for our friend. Scarlett asked if he was homeless. I told her I didn’t know, but I felt like he might like a poptart. He wasn’t where he had been before and we all felt a little sad, but about a block later we found him sitting on some steps. He happily said hello to us and we happily handed him a small snack. We moved on, but the experience stayed with us. We felt happier and our morning felt lighter.
When we arrived at the museum Scarlett tripped and the fall scared her. She sat sadly on a bench. Within a couple minutes something magical happened. Atticus (a 2 year old, so one of the most self centered beings around) looked at Scarlett, walked over to the immaculate flowers, picked one (in spite of my yelling not to), walked over to his sister and said, “Here you go Bea. Make you happy”. It did make her happy. It made me happy. It made him happy. All the kindness and empathy I want to have in our family was there…and it happened after I had taken a moment to look outside, to be a little self centered myself and to allow my circle of love to grow and encompass my surroundings for a minute.
Pursuing our art can be self-centered. Focusing on our work and our art is not bad and is essential to create those things that we want to, but sometimes when we focus so seriously and myopically on what we are trying to create, we limit ourselves and our scope by missing out on those things around us that could illuminate our path and broaden our success. I don’t mean success in a worldly way because I am not someone to give advice on that type of photography success. In this case by “success” I suppose I mean satisfaction. We can easily get trapped in the stress of keeping our art protected in the subway station, micromanaging so it gets safely and on time where it needs to be. There are so many times when I am struggling to bring to fruition exactly what I want, only to take a break to look “outside” and finding something even better, with a clear path ahead. Taking a photo that my daughter asked me to while I was very busy in fact spawned an idea for a new photo project; answering a question from a fellow photographer on a day when I already had a lot on my plate in fact answered a question I had had for a while. This is not a plea to not focus. Keep focusing and keep creating so you can make your art. This is simply a gentle reminder to remember to look out, look up and open yourself to what is around you. Consider those moments where you can serve others, even if it is not completely on your way, and see what new light is brought to your art. At the very least, you’ll help someone else; at the most, you will transform your art.
Amanda Voelker is a fine art and lifestyle photographer. With her children and light as her inspiration, Amanda finds beauty in the everyday. She strives to capture the subtleties of human emotion and connection in a beautiful way that showcases both the moment and a piece of her self. Amanda is also the Co Creator and Editor in Chief of “The Long Way Home” Magazine and instructor at "The Bloom Forum"