Happy New Year!
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
I've recently started liking Vincent Van Gogh more and more now that I've gotten to know him. I guess the same could be said about most people if you give them the chance (so stick around and get to know me!).
Vincent was of course an amazing artist... and yet "of course" isn't accurate. The art that we see gracing the walls of the most prestigious museums around the world was not appreciated when Vincent was alive. It wasn't what others liked at the time. In fact, he mostly lived off of assistance from relatives and trading paintings for coffee, cigarettes, and more art supplies. (Ironically, in 2022, Orchard with Cypresses sold for $117.2 million!)
More than his artwork, what strikes me most about Vincent lately is his perspective.
As we enter into the new year, I am reflecting on Vincent Van Gogh's sage perspective.
1. “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Hmmm... think about that for a second. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. If we never do this, never take a risk toward a new direction... what happens? Well, Vincent also said, “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” There's your answer. Life might be comfortable if nothing new is attempted, but perhaps less beautiful or life-giving.
2. “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”
But how do you attempt something new when it's unfamiliar and you might not be successful? You work to learn how to do it! Learning is an investment. When I think back to my first year of teaching I remember telling my a.p. (as I was given an unexpected twist just days before the first day of school), "this may not be my best year of teaching, but I'll do my best". And I did my best by researching, practicing, seeking wise counsel, adjusting when necessary, and making a commitment to show up every day ready to grow. I may not have been THE best, but I did MY best (and had a great year!). I think that's all we can expect when we are having the courage to attempt something new; it might not be our best work at first, but we'll be giving it our best. Or as Jodi Picoult puts it, "you can always edit a bad page, you can't edit a blank page".
3. “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
I am my worst critic- fact. (and dare I say I don't think I'm unique in this area)
The danger in doing something new is that the critical voice in your head will proclaim all of your mistakes and sway you into giving up... taking the paved road. Vincent didn't begin painting until he was 27 years old, and it took him time and effort to develop his skill. He was told that his colors were too dark, so he lightened his palette, and when people still weren't that interested in his work... do you know what he did? He kept painting.
So here is a challenge for the year: Have the courage to try something new! Start something that will be life-giving to your body, mind, and/or soul. Put aside any perfectionist qualities and don't be afraid to start where you are with what you have. If it's a clumsy start, don't give up! Silence any voice that says you can't by DOING... and watch yourself improve as you learn.