“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Picasso said that, and its always been incredibly intriguing to me. The very notion of someone putting words to this phenomenon, this stage of life when one seemingly becomes less creative — that’s pretty crazy to me. And the funny thing about this is that all the while I’ve been aware of this quote, which is quite a few years now, I’ve almost subconsciously been telling myself, “But, not me. There’s no way that I’d ever give up creating for something like adulthood…”
Here I am today, as honest as can be, telling you that I’ve fallen into that trap.
I haven’t been in all that many romantic relationships. As far as twenty-one year old men go, I’m probably right at about the median number of people I’ve dated. Not that it’s some kinda sick comparison game or something… But in that sort of summation, most people would be looking at the similar characteristics and trends of each person they’ve been with, wondering if perhaps they have a “type” that they’re bound to pursue. I’m not saying that I haven’t done that, cause I definitely have, and it’s very interesting to say the least. However, the more prominent trait that I’ve found amidst all of those people isn’t even something intrinsically about them at all, but rather something they say. It’s this little phrase that has come to be my bane.
“We’re just figuring it out.”
There was just something about that phrase that bothered me to no end. It’s probably just as simple as expectations not matching up with reality… but it felt way more complex of a statement than that. Almost like there’s something that I was lacking in, or some situation that wasn’t ideal, and because things weren’t as expected, we just had to “figure out” a way through it. Whether it was conflict of interest, a massive difference in preferences, varying ideologies, character deficiencies, or even something “simple” like distance, that phrase has been there through it all. Like I said, every relationship that I’ve been in… and the current one’s no exception. But this time’s different, and in a really great way… I’ll explain later.
I’d be shocked if you’ve never said that same phrase. But perhaps it wasn’t in a relationship — maybe it was a sudden moment of crisis, a surprise confession of love from a friend, a car that wouldn’t start, an alarm that you slept straight through, an unforeseen honest conversation with a coworker, even panicking that just maybe you forgot to lock the door to the public bathroom you're in. (Don’t ask me why, but I wonder about that last one every time it happens… like, it’s not like I haven’t locked doors before! But for some reason, the tiny bit of micro-anxiety is still present whenever I’m behind the walls of a public restroom. Anyways, carry on.)
Like, we know at our core that all of life is this way, and we bounce from one happy accident to another… but sometimes we forget, and we forget that everyone else also forgets. Occasionally (or everyday, depending on who you are), we like to play pretend and imagine, in some kind of grand delusion, that we’re really in control at all in this life. Let’s all just laugh together… *wipes tear from eye*
…But for real though, I forget this all the time.
I’m not afraid to say it: Sometimes I have control-freak behaviors. I used to hate that, especially in those moments that I described above… but the reality is that we’re all horribly broken, and it takes that moment of hopeful helplessness to bring us back to what life really is. All the while I’ve been hating that phrase for reasons of feeling lesser, it’s actually exactly what I need in order to be okay with where I’m at in this season of life.
So really, I never gave the phrase enough credit. Out of all the things that I need to be reminded of on the daily, and of all the mantras that I subscribe to, this one’s possibly the most honest of em all. I mean, every relationship… and pretty much every person in every area of my life reminds me just how much I’m “figuring it out.” I’m a “creative type”, for Pete’s sake… it’s part of the job (or lack thereof). In all of the unknown, mysterious, accidental, unforeseen-ness of life, what more perfect of a phrase to remind me of how fragile it all is than, “figuring it out?”
Huzzah, I’m kindof finally getting it! Maybe, a little bit… even though I still have a minor freakout on the daily, but it’s all good. But what does that mean for you? Heck, what does that mean for all of us on this earth?
Well, let’s take hypothetical inventory of what it would be like if we were all cool with just “figuring it out.” Just think of how differently things would look if we simply remembered that everyone we’ll ever meet is just as clueless but hopeful about life…
We’d be so much quicker to extend real grace in moments of frustration. Our gaze wouldn’t rest so solely on the results of our friendships and relationships, but on true intimacy with the souls that we’re inhabiting this earth with. We’d be so much more forgiving when mistakes or failures occur, because we’d realize that it’s simply part of the process, not the worst case scenario. The notion of “put-together-ness” would cease to be the subject of comparison, and we could all be so much better at being ourselves. And for the sake of all things good, we’d probably stop asking, “So, what’s next for you?”, because nobody has any freaking idea.
And in lieu of our pal, Picasso’s revelatory statement at the start… adulthood is hitting me hard and I’m seeing so vividly, what he’s referring to in regards to remaining an artist. Though it’s always been somewhat of a vague worry, I’ve never really questioned the practice of artistry in terms of prioritizing it over the qualms and hardships of “growing up.” I’ve been resolute for so long… so sure that I’d keep making things and creating and using the gifts that I have, even if I had to live that “starving artist” life for a bit. Well, now it’s real and it’s getting way harder to keep making that choice. Like, making stuff is great and all, but… money is a real thing now. What I’m saying is that that stupid phrase, “figuring it out”, has so much more meaning to me now.
Cause really, that’s all I do. That’s really all we do. At heart, we’re all “Professional Figure Out-ers.” We go about life with a few tools and morals and beliefs under out belts, and just make it happen. Every new day brings new challenges and difficulties and unexpected things that we’re never fully prepared for, and that’s a beautiful thing. As much as this time is immensely frustrating to me, not knowing what the heck I’m doing… I find solace in the fact that all of life is that way, and reliance on my savior is what has, and what will get me through it.
Even with my current relationship, as I mentioned before… it’s no longer a mark of shame, like some kind of badge of being not enough or something like that. Now it’s the reality that we face head on, acknowledging that we’re both flawed, imperfect people with a desire to become better. We’re just trying to learn how to love each other well, love those around us well, and love Jesus with even more fervor than ever… and that’s what matters.
So, here’s what we do about it.
Let yourself be okay with being a “Professional Figure Out-er”. You’re probably in way over your head with career choices and education and family stuff and roommates and spouses… but let’s be real — who isn’t? And I’m talking to myself here… let yourself be okay with not knowing, and just do something that will propel you toward a desired future. That’s really all you’ve got control over: What you chose to do today. Then, in this understanding of your hopeful helplessness, you can extend that invitation to others to be okay with it too. Your kindness will be more honest, your courtesy will be even more robust, all because of a deep empathy for your fellow “Figure Out-ers.” To put it plainly, be the kind of person you’d love to bump into in the line at Starbucks… the one who will smile big, ask how your day’s going, and be completely unassuming and judge-less in being a friend to you. And if you’re already that kind of person, God bless you — you’ve gotten me through some tough moments, and I couldn’t be more thankful for you.
I pray that in this day you’ll remember that it’s okay to be human. I think it’s easy to forget that we’re all pretty messed up, and that we all have no clue what we’re doing. But I hope that you’ll be reminded that you’re not alone, you’re not doing as bas as you think, and that the Lord has never left you. We see through fickle human eyes — our reality is often only as grand as we deem it to be. But I hope the you’ll allow the One who made you to be your guide in this life, instead of relying on your own understanding. He’s given you the most splendid and wonderful of gifts: A life. Be okay with the process, knowing that His ways are far beyond yours, and go out of your way to be that voice of positivity and truth in someone else’s life. You never know who needs to hear you say, “I believe in you.” I love you friend, and don’t forget to keep moving forward.