from now on / resolutions

1/1/2012Let me make one thing absolutely clear: I don’t make resolutions. Each year, as everyone yells numbers in receding order, their eyes glued to the television screen and the sparkly ball dropping over Times Square in New York City, I fight back urges to roll my eyes and huff “whatever.” Yeah, I’m that lady. I’m an NYE-Scrooge. My recurring resolution, which I have on hand whenever someone asks, is “to not make any resolutions.” There you have it. In your face. My resolution trumps your resolution because I’m too perfect (read: cynical and lazy and plagued by self-doubt) to make any resolutions.

What a difference a year makes. At the beginning of 2012, I lost my job, briefly moved back home to New Hampshire, and then fled to India with a British guy I had known for six months. It was a string of strange, life-altering decisions. I quickly realized that moving to India was a dream and not a reality, and moved back home for good.

At first, I returned with my tail between my legs, plagued with the overwhelming thought that I had failed. I spent the rest of the year putting the pieces of my life back together in a way that made sense for me. I excavated the past in an effort to understand the present, set my sights on the future, and explored what it was that I truly wanted—not what my family wanted for me, or what my friends wanted for me, or what society wanted for me, but what I truly wanted, for me. I needed to refocus my life, excavate my past, prioritize my present, plan, and execute.

Here’s the plan:

1. Take Art Seriously: Cultivate a Disciplined & Sustained Practice

ink mapWhen I was nine, my third grade teacher called home to complain that I had been drawing all over my textbooks. My mother’s response was to enroll me in acrylic painting courses with a local folk artist, and I’ve been painting/drawing/creating since. But the past few years I focused most, if not all, of my attention on travel. Now that I’m semi-settled back home in New England, I’m ready to commit to a disciplined and sustained practice. I’ve enrolled in four courses at local studios and galleries this winter to study figure drawing, watercolors, oil painting, woodblock printing, and to reacquaint myself with acrylics. On top of this, I’m going to be creating handmade journals using outdated aviation maps, selling 35mm prints, researching galleries and spaces to exhibit in, and engaging in a 365 project. I’ve always complained that I never have enough time/space/energy for art. I’m done making excuses. It’s time to dive in.

2. 35mm / 365

cloudy dayThe premise is simple. One 35mm photo a day, for three hundred and sixty-five days.

I’ve always loved film photography. At ten years old, I owned my first camera. It was a Polaroid iZone, a rectangular-shaped-contraption that captured images on a sticky film that looked like oversized BandAids. A box of film was pricey. My mother said, “only take pictures of things that are important.” I said, “everything is important.”

I resisted digital for years because I loved the look and feel of film, then caved because it felt inevitable. Now, with the demise of Kodak and the disappearance of certain Polaroid films, coinciding with the emergence of The Impossible Project and the ironic rise of Instagram and other Apps that make digital photos look old and weathered, I’ve decided to shoot solely 35mm film. It may be dying, but it’s not dead, and I’ll shoot until it is.

You can check out my daily posts here – http://evdecleyre.tumblr.com

3. Create fifty-two handmade journals this year / one each week

handmadejournalsLast year, on Christmas, my father handed us gifts wrapped in outdated aviation maps. I honestly can’t recall what he gave me (sorry Dad), because I was too enthralled with these maps. Now, one year later, major airlines are giving pilots iPads for aviation manuals and maps, and these babies are basically extinct.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love maps. I have a map of the world tattooed on my forearms. I could sit and stare at maps for hours. I’ve been sitting on these aviation maps for a year and finally figured out a proper use for them. In high school, I learned how to bind books using a coptic stitch. This year, I’m going to create one handmade journal/sketchbook a week, using aviation maps for covers and an exposed coptic stitch for the binding.

However, I doubt I could fill fifty-two journals in one year, so if you’re interested in ordering one of the fifty-two, (e)mail me at e.v.de.cleyre@gmail.com, subject line: handmade journals.

4. Effectively End Self-Proclaimed Hibernation: Bring Back the Phone

woodsIn June, I erased the contents of my iPhone and gave it to a friend. “You won’t last a week,” my brother said. It’s been six months.

The reports of horrendous worker conditions in Foxconn factories and the idea that everything I did could be tracked and monitored were two in a plethora of reasons for forgoing a phone. I was spending a lot more time flipping through Instagram feeds than I was taking photographs, texting more than having actual conversations, and always connected but never connecting. I needed a break, a hiatus where I could truly hibernate, alone, without the ping of an incoming text message echoing through this empty house.

I needed to know that I didn’t need an iPhone—for directions, for communication, for connection. In the six months that I spent without, I had more meaningful connections and face-to-face conversations because I wasn’t staring into a screen every second I spent alone. I asked people questions instead of searching for answers on Google. I paid closer attention to directions, to where I was going, to where I had been. I did math in my head, kept a real life address book that I wrote in with a real live pencil, and listened to music on vinyl—sitting still and actually listening rather than shuffling through songs, searching for lyrics, or texting someone about how awesome it was. I sent handwritten letters (and emails) composed in full sentences with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I even wrote a book.

At the root of my iPhone Banishment Project was the knowledge that I needed to truly hibernate, to take leave of the world. I needed to be absolutely alone, and when I had an iPhone, I reached for it the second someone left the room, just to do something, anything with it—to occupy my mind and my attention. I needed to learn to revel in being alone, to savor the moments I had to myself, moments that could be spent in observation and creation, moments that brought something or someone new into my life, something I never expected to happen or someone I never expected to meet. I needed to stop connecting with people who weren’t actually there and start being wherever I actually, physically was. And I needed to keep these moments to myself. I needed to stop putting my life on display for the world to view, to witness, to judge. Every tweet, every Facebook post, and every Instagram image were thoughts and moments I needed to keep to myself, for once. I needed to cultivate that voice that doesn’t hinge or depend on a social media platform and the people who may or may not view it and/or like it.

Now, I’m bringing the Phone back, mindfully. Now that I know I don’t need it, I can re-integrate it without it consuming me, taking over my life. There will be boundaries. It won’t live in my back pocket like it did for years. I won’t install Twitter, or Facebook, or even access my email on it. I will take photos. I won’t Instagram. I will answer incoming calls (much to my mother’s delight). Above all else, I will take the time to step back and actually look at life without a screen, or a lens.

Now that I’ve shared mine, tell me what endeavors you’ve resolved to accomplish in 2013!
Here’s hoping that we can all answer this prompt next year (wordpress daily prompt).

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14 Comments

  1. Love these life changes Liz!! You are my hero! I’m so proud to know you and know that you are brave enough to face your weaknesses and do something about it! P.s. I’d like to purchase a journal. 🙂

    1. Thanks Mel! You inspire me daily, each time I see your beautiful art hung up in my room and whenever I receive your wonderful packages in the mail. Thanks for your support! I’ll get in touch with you about the journal soon, currently working on the first one!

  2. read more of your blog entries for one – and only text you when about when and where I am going to be so we can catch up!
    I would also like to purchase a journal!

  3. Absolutely amazing – you have my absolute respect! I wish I could claim to have such discipline – basically I’ve resolved to stop being such a … well … uncertain … um – you know what I mean – I hope!

  4. Thank you, e.v., for the inspiration! And the comment – my first! I think the “my resolution trumps yours” is a familiar attitude. Looking forward to following along with your journey!

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