By Julia Niemczynowska

My last blog post is a bit of a reflection. In the spirit of blogging and of art, I would like to offer some sage life advice or revelation, but really, I can only provide a little bit of my own experience as a humble offering.

At a time when you can’t walk through a book shop without a wall of self-help books promoting everything from 14 kinds of meditation to speed yoga, and every other Facebook/Instagram/twitter post is a motivational quote, it can be hard to wade through the cacophony of advice on how to be a good twenty/thirty-something-year-old human. We need to cling on to the things that make us individuals and that make us interesting, or interested, in life.

Whether you are blazing your own trail, or working your way up a ladder, it’s hard to know whose advice to follow. I would be deluding myself if I said that I could offer sound advice on life choices. What I can say in earnest is that it helps a great deal to offer yourself (and others) a little kindness now and then.

As an artist, choosing to go off the beaten path can be daunting. There are few people who can tell you what to do to build a successful career, but there are an awful lot who like to offer alternatives, or ‘safer’, career options. However, art is my kindness to myself, my way of letting go, being in the moment. It’s my bubble and my go-to type of expression or venting.

But for me, there is more to being kind than making art. In ‘the real world’, as a thirty year old woman, I’m faced with an adage of makeup ads, baby ads, ‘be your best self’ sexy ads, and last but not least, the delightful array of new gadgets and cleaning stuff ads. I feel the pressure to have my shit together, to not get a wrinkle, and to have and iron clad formula to apply to everything from career to future womb choices. All this, while being bombarded with the news that we have destroyed the planet and are surely facing environmental extinction. From all sides, I am being told how to be the best adult, the adultiest adult, while looking like a hungry fourteen year old.

(take a deep breath here)

So I breathe, deeply.

When I look in the mirror, I do feel a slight sense of panic at the encroaching forehead, smile and eye lines that seem to have appeared overnight and have taken permanent uninvited residence on my face. But I believe, deeply believe, that aging is beautiful and that your character grows into your body with experience (something which is reflected in my art work). In the spirit of being interested in the making process, to keep ‘control’ over my appearance, I’ve turned to something I love: cooking. I started brewing potions, mixing shea butter and melting coconut oil with essential oils, and have stopped buying moisturizers. The effect is that I now know exactly what I am putting on my body, and what benefits it will provide. More importantly, I know what’s not going on my skin: a long list of ingredients whose side effects I discovered while trying to understand exactly what they did. This is my way of accepting aging. I have one body, and at least by knowing to some extent what I am putting on it, I know I am being kind to it. It’s OK to be a thirty year old. It’s OK to be older. I have earned my smile lines.

On the kid front: yes perhaps, maybe, and that’s enough. I know I want a dog in the next five years. I will start there. If anyone does lecture me on having kids NOW, to them, I say, in the kindest way I can, to leave my body the F*** alone.

As to health, sexiness, etc. well, I’m fierce and that’s enough. I eat healthily, and I am careful about where my food comes from, always looking at ways to leave a smaller environmental footprint. I love to cook, and therefore eat. As my metabolism changes (which happens when you are 25-30—why is this never mentioned??) I am trying to listen to my body, and to stop eating when I am full. This is damn hard when a beautiful green coconut curry is staring at you.

Which brings me full circle, to art and work. The hardest thing to control, understand, and predict (which has been left until last for this reason) is work. I spent 5 years (not long at all really) trying to build a career, which ultimately left me high and dry when the jobs simply vanished. As a millennial, I am aware the competition is stiff, and that there are many my age who are more qualified and similarly desperate to do similar work. I was lucky that my, hopefully temporary, break-up with my job happened at a time when I was willing, and had the means, to forge a little ways on my own. But it’s an uphill struggle. I still need daytime work and I need it to be meaningful. I have sculpture, with which I have a lifelong love affair and which will continue to be my main motivation. I hope that somewhere in the process I will find some kind of guru, and adultier adult, who will be able to help me on my way. In the meantime, I am learning to accept change with grace (and tears, and laughter) and know that I have little to no control, but that I am interested, passionately interested in keeping up with work that I love.

To those in similar situations, I can only offer one small gram of advice. Breath. Deeply. In your own way, you are beautiful. You are smart. You have a support system and friends that care. The job market kinda sucks. And oh! You have a nice butt!

Happy breathing and thank you for reading my little blog posts and thank you to wearesisterstories.org for giving me a wonderful writing platform. Maybe, if you have some free time, some drawing, crafting, art-making might be a nice thing to do as well. In the meantime, come check out my online gallery and let me know what your thoughts are. www.julianiem.com.

___________

Julia Niemczynowska is a Montreal-born, Bristol-based artist, who works primarily with clay. You can find more information on Julia’s art on her website and facebook page.

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