Making Something from Nothing (Much) Pt 2

by Audra Almond-Harvey


Five Things I have Learned While Rebuilding My World:

  1. Life is full of few epic moments, and many small but important ones. Being forced to slow down (literally, with a cane) has made me see things that I would have been speeding right by. Now… this is where I’m supposed to tell you that all sorts of transcendental moments have just opened up to me, and now I know the true meaning of life. But that’s not my story. Others may have patience and strength of character, I have a stubborn refusal to quit. (Pro-tip: growth can still happen when your attitude is terrible, as long as you’re willing to change.) Slowing down has provided many opportunities for creative inspiration. It has also caused me to value the simple moments more than I did before. (Should I achieve transcendence… or patience… I will be sure to let you know.)
  2. (Smart) Vulnerability is Worth the Risk. I am not a very vulnerable person by nature. In fact, I will admit that my youthful idea of adulthood was that eventually I would never need people. Not only is this impossible, it’s also boring. People, with all of their messiness, will provide many opportunities for happy accidents. However, when I was first trying to learn how to be vulnerable, I was vulnerable in unsafe ways with unsafe people. I am still learning the wise approach to this. (Nothing is a waste if you can learn from it!)
  3. You’re never going to be as skilled as a beginner as you will be after years of practice. I have a saying: everyone I know who learned to play the violin started out sounding like they were killing a cat, slowly. And yet, daily practices added up, and at some point the auditory chaos became music. Beginners don’t know very much about the skill they may at some point become an expert in – this is true regardless of the new skill life has decided you’re learning. I am reshaping a life of athleticism and activity into a much simpler and quieter life which accommodates my limitations. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing yet, as I just got started. (It’s okay to feel like you’re out of your depth – you probably are. Start there.)
  1. Many of the same skills and talents you use to create a painting or a song or a dance or a poem or a film or a… (you get the idea) can be used to remake your own life. My years of dance taught me that new muscles can be built through daily practice. This gets me through physical therapy! My design skills taught me the importance of balance, negative space, and form meeting function — all useful ideas for meditation. My years of hosting events have given me the tools to make plans which plan on a change of plans — helpful for managing a life in which I don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel on any given day. Writing has taught me to recognize the important characters in my story, and how I might like to change the plot of my life. Working with artists of a variety of genres has taught me the importance of remaining flexible. I encourage you to make a list of your creative skills and then think about how you might use those tools for benefiting your life. And finally,
  2. You still have something to offer, no matter what you have endured. Your story matters. Your ideas matter. Your willingness to serve and to listen matters. You matter. Your value is not determined by what or how much you can do. It is innate to who you are. This is something worth going to battle for – resist all voices who tell you otherwise, even if (particularly if) one of those voices is yours. Knowing your value doesn’t mean you’ll always do the right thing, or that you always know what to do. It does give you a starting place for the days when you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. It does give you a strong foundation for facing failure. It does help you build hope for your future.

Life is change.

Take what you find in life, even if it’s nothing much. Waste little. Make something of what you have, and share it with your community. Keep going. Rest and repeat. It’s so simple and yet, takes so many tries to learn. But who knows what you’ll create in the process? It might end up being something rather beautiful.

Audra Almond-Harvey is a founder and the Executive Director of abrasiveMedia.