I had given her and her classmates four hours to make pots, two hours to learn how and practice one day, then, the next day, they were to make and save whatever they could. Basically, they were asked to do what it takes most people exponentially longer to achieve, and for the most part, they did.
On Friday, after the pots came out of the glaze firing, everyone was standing around oohing and aahing over their own and each other's work. This girl, Mary, I will call her, made more good pots than any of the other kids in either of the classes I had the good fortune to teach. She was also the hardest on herself, and that is why she was standing there, putting down her sweet little pot.
There was really nothing I could say to disuade her from her perspective. This pot was no good, even though she had struggled to make it, even though she had carefully tested glazes in order to use just the right one for this particular pot. Even though what her teacher asked her to do was more than you could expect from people of any age let alone a group of 10 and 11 year olds.
She could not bring herself to like her lopsided little pot. I understand how easy it is to view the world in this way. I know a lot of people who do, but to watch a young girl so full of possibility be so full of crippling self-judgment was crushing. Crushing because it reminded me of every time I did this to myself.
She, like the rest of us, is a carrier of a disease. This communicable disease convinces us that no matter what we are, what we do, or what we hope to achieve, it will never be good enough. It keeps us all from discovering who we are. It keeps us from celebrating every horrible thing that has made us. It keeps us from realizing our miraculous potential.
When I told my dad I wanted to be an artist, he told me to make a living and be an artist on the side. I listened. I spent many years in jobs I ultimately hated because I believed this was The Way. I changed plans to get approval, to get love, and to get what I believed to be security. I got an MBA that I only realized later would put me in the perfect position to do any number of jobs...I would hate.
All of the ways I have changed in order to be palatable. All the things I didn't do or did do out of fear of not being enough, or not being right, or not being loved. This girl who didn't like her pot really crushed me because she is me, and her pain is my own, and we are all connected in this broken culture that teaches self-doubt.
We each have the opportunity to learn all through our lives what we love to do and do that. We have the opportunity to fail, to succeed, to hurt people and be hurt, and all of it is useful. We have the opportunity to love and be loved, to spread joy and hope and inspire compassion. All of it helps us become.
There is no right way. There is only your way, and you have the opportunity to choose it in every moment.
So before you put yourself down because unrealistic expectations have been thrust upon you by a broken and diseased culture, take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to feel the blood in your body, the pulse in your veins, and the rhythm of your particular variety of freak. Understand that you are a fucking miracle, and that might just mean that today, you struggle, Today, you cry, Today, you suffer. Because that's part of it.
Allow yourself to be you in the moment you find yourself in, in each moment you can.
The best thing you could ever hope to be is you. The second best thing is to inspire someone else to do the same. It is time for a new disease. It is time to communicate acceptance, love, and compassion. It is time for us all to see what we can do.