It is the unknown that excites the ardor of scholars, who, in the known alone, would shrivel up with boredom.Wallace Stevens
20 years ago this May (gulp), I moved to New York City only two days after graduating college.
The city was almost completely unknown to me. I had only visited on field trips and had rather spontaneously decided to move there during my last semester of art school.
On weekends, I would get up early and get on the bus or subway from my neighborhood to somewhere I didn’t know very well or at all.
I preferred the bus because I liked to see the neighborhoods I passed. I made mental notes of areas that looked intriguing so I could visit them in future.
When I arrived at my chosen stop, I’d walk and walk. I’d walk for hours. I’ll never know how many miles I walked.
Eventually, when I got tired or hungry, I’d get back on the bus or subway and make my way back home.
I didn’t have a plan for those walks. Sometimes I’d have a particular grocery store or other destination in mind, but usually, I was on a mission to explore an interesting looking block I’d passed another time.
Often, I felt like I was pushing the boundaries of the known a little further.
I was thinking about these walks the other day and what my life was like then.
Not everyone had a cell phone and I didn’t really text anyone. As a shy introvert, I rarely spoke on the phone.
Internet was dial-up (although I did manage to waste a fair amount of time online).
My landlord didn’t want any holes made in the building (yes, really) so there was no cable. I was limited to watching only a few fuzzy local channels.
My walks were an adventure. Even in a familiar neighborhood, I could still see new things.
Even after living there for years, the city remained mostly unknown to me.
It was a slow time. The days felt long.
There was so much to explore, something new to see every day.
That is what makes life interesting.
That is what makes one day different from the next.
I think that’s why I feel nostalgia for that time.
When life becomes entirely predictable, each day blends into the next.
We can get stuck in a cycle of doing the same things on a loop. Nothing is unknown.
That’s why I think a creative practice of any sort adds so much to our lives.
In creativity, there is unpredictability.
With my art supplies in front of me, there is the possibility of creating something I haven’t made before.
I can feel or think something new or have an experience I haven’t had before.
I’ve begun to think of my creative practice the way I used to think about my walks.
I set out eager to explore the avenues of tools before me, each one leading to an undiscovered place.