Get Back Up Again

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 / 6:00 AM

Three months into the year, and I finally made a New Year's resolution: don't just be grateful, express gratitude. Send "thank you" notes, tell people you appreciate them -- even if the people helping you may not have honest intentions, still: say "thank you."

Everyone deserves some fucking kindness.

That, and more lessons from the month:

1. Create, create, create. 
There's this great interview from November with Lin-Manuel Miranda on PBS NewsHour where Jeffrey Brown asks him about the motivation behind his art. "I hope that what I can contribute is something that hasn't been seen before...I think that's what we do as artists: what's the thing only I can contribute? It's not about the confidence to be like, 'Hello, world, here's this idea that never existed.' It's: 'This is my brain, and unless I express it, it's only going to stay in my brain. It's more about personal expression than imposing your will on the world. It's more about: 'if I don't get this idea out of my head and onto paper, it dies with me.'"

I love that. The idea that legacies are not about the selfish need to gain glory from a project is something that I think gets lost sometimes. We're a society that can easily become obsessed with spotlights. But you shouldn't create something for the pleasure of praise; you should create because it's how you process life, and how you express the parts of your soul that can't sit still.

Do I think every idea in my brain is worth expressing? No. But I've realized that if I run from everything that comes into my head, then I'm selling myself short. Creativity is also about experimenting, and for as long as I can sit behind the wheel of this car I've found myself in, I'm going to keep accelerating.

2. Prove people right.
So this is something I heard once upon a time ago, but it's become increasingly meaningful to me over the past few months: rather than focus on trying to prove the people who don't believe in you wrong, focus instead on proving the people who do believe in you right.

I'm the kind of person who dwells on failures and criticism. One rock of the boat can put me on edge for an entire day. It's not healthy, because then I tend to forget about all of the wonderful, incredible people around me who are there to encourage and support. I've been lucky to find myself amongst a community of people who aren't afraid to have the tough conversations, but are also there to hold each others' hands. That's rare.

3. Beware of wolves.
If a wolf asks you to co-lead a pack, watch your back. There's a reason wolves aren't typically seen leading together.

4. Listen to Hamilton.
I was trying to hold off until I saw Hamilton on stage (soon!!), but then I was taking a very long walk after my local train went express, so I decided to pull it up on Spotify -- and I haven't been able to stop listening since.

To bookend this to my first point, I was walking around my neighborhood on Sunday after church, and stopped at the Morris-Jumel Mansion (where Aaron Burr lived for a period of time and where Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote parts of Hamilton) where I hadn't realized there are lovely benches around the house where anyone can sit. First: it really is quiet uptown (obviously I know this already because I've lived in Hamilton Heights for more than four years!); second: I rarely ever sit outside and read in New York, because there's always some distraction or other, but I was one bench for nearly two hours Sunday and it was peaceful and lovely, and now I just have to go back.

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  1. A-ha, feeling the JOY! This post is wonderful. I was actually thinking of you the other day, since you are a church-goer. Although I am not very religious, I do believe God put us on earth to be happy. But being happy is NOT easy, sometimes it is WORK. Good thing you are such a hard worker! So rock on Traci Lee! YFM