Taking Things For Granted

Sorry about the lack of updates this week; I’ve been sick, and the oppressive heat in my apartment hasn’t helped my energy levels.

TO GO WITH Australia-weather-drought-farming,FEATURE by Glenda KWEK In this photo taken on February 11, 2015, the sun scorches an already cracked earth on a farm in the Australian agricultural town of Walgett, 650 kilometres (404 miles) northwest of Sydney.  The Australian agricultural town -- which takes its name from the Aboriginal word meaning the meeting of two rivers -- is in the grip of the worst drought in a century, with disillusioned farmers battling to stay afloat.       AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS

In this photo taken on February 11, 2015, the sun scorches an already cracked earth on a farm in the Australian agricultural town of Walgett, 650 kilometres (404 miles) northwest of Sydney. The Australian agricultural town — which takes its name from the Aboriginal word meaning the meeting of two rivers — is in the grip of the worst drought in a century, with disillusioned farmers battling to stay afloat. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS

I’ve never lived in a place that lacks AC despite it being required until now. There’s a pretty strong myth in the Pacific Northwest that air conditioning isn’t necessary or even worthwhile. My 92-degree apartment would strongly disagree. In Maryland, the prevailing wisdom went something like this: “Sure, you might have summers where you don’t need AC at all, but when you need it, it’s important, and sometimes you’ll have months at a time where you need it.”

It’s a mentality I’ve taken for granted, listening to people tell me, even in 90+ degree weather with interiors even higher, that AC is an unnecessary luxury. It very likely is, for someone used to a few sweltering weeks or months out of the year. For myself, I’ve always viewed my home as a place of refuge from whatever’s going on outside, whether that’s people, events, or the weather, and having that taken away makes me realize how much I value it. It’s caused me to think of other things that I take for granted, and evaluate what they mean to me.

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One of my classes this quarter is focused around generating creative ideas. I refuse to use the word “ideating” here, though it’s the technically correct one. The first couple of sessions of the class were mind-numbing for me, focusing on building self-confidence in the ideas each person comes up with, and trying to get these ideas to flow. Having worked for years in a creative industry, where I’ve literally had to come up with ten or fifteen original ideas in a twenty-minute meeting, this sort of activity is something I find almost laughably easy. I’ve been surrounded for most of my professional career by people who have a similar skillset, who can generate ideas creatively quickly and on the fly, so it’s something that’s never seemed terribly strange to me.

I spoke to one of the other people in the class the other day. She’s a very no-nonsense kind of person from what I’ve seen, with a hyper-practical response to everything and (what seems like) little time for frivolity. I expected her to share my snide reaction to the class, and I was surprised when she didn’t. She explained to me that she had never been good at coming up with ideas, particularly creative ones, and that she was really excited about the class and, even two sessions in, felt like she’d learned a lot and was getting a lot of value. By the end, she was even repeating some of the affirmation-style comments the class had taught, self-referential apophthegms that I found somewhat childish but that she clearly was getting value from.

this is so I don't get crap from people later.

this is so I don’t get crap from people later. it’s pronounced AP-oh-them, short e.

It struck me that my own creativity is something I take for granted. It’s easy for me, and because it’s not something I necessarily consider a skill that I’ve honed, it’s something I generally believe that other people can do just as easily as I can. I generally don’t describe myself as a creative person, and despite contributing to the creation of art, I staunchly refuse to consider myself an artist. I leave that title for the people I feel have earned it; people who have honed a very visible skill and practice it until they excel. It had never occurred to me that I might be doing both artists and (for lack of a better term) non-creatives a disservice by drawing the line the way I have. Art isn’t necessarily a function of a singular visible skill, and to deny that I’m a creative person must be frustrating for someone who can see me coming up with ideas easily.

I recently put together a lightly-photoshopped picture for my mom for her birthday. She’d forgotten to take a picture of my sister and I when we were both around for Christmas, and since we now live on opposite sides of the country, the opportunity wasn’t likely to come up again soon. I had my sister take a picture of herself with her city’s skyline behind her, and I took a similar one with my own, and I merged them together, a fairly quick and easy photoshop job with a basic color mask to balance things out and a little bit of translation to make everything line up right. All in all, it took about 20 minutes of retouching, and I was almost ashamed to send it to her, because to me it felt like a hack job. A “real artist”, in my mind, would have done something much more impressive.

some amateur work

some amateur work

When I described the process to a friend who rather liked the picture, I commented that I’d just sort of “fiddled with things until it looked right”, which is pretty much perfectly accurate. I didn’t have a good idea of how to make a proper mask, nor did I know what translations and cropping would work best, I just played around until I got something functional. His response was “yeah, that sounds like the kind of creative solution I’d expect from you”.

I hope everyone has a good weekend, particularly those of you who have long weekends. I’m going to work on resting and shaking this illness, so I can go back to taking another thing for granted: my health. Cheers!



Source: Digital Initiative
Taking Things For Granted

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