The importance of humility

Portions of my last post prompted me to revisit where I was spiritually just coming out of graduate school – how I had no idea how to approach my life, what to expect from it, where to focus my energies, how to stay grounded.  A ton of formalized education had so poorly prepared me for the real world.  A deep love of Shakespeare and Chekhov didn’t quite bring home the bacon. Although my last post focused primarily on the last year of this life’s journey, I can pretty firmly state that the  entirety of the last decade was in a word, humbling. The abundant expectations at its outset were replaced at its end by a deep humility, a humility that among other things, cultivated a deep gratitude.

The capacity to see beauty in the common aspects of our everyday, to feel true compassion for the struggles endured by others, to find deep gratitude for what we have, including the intangible precious.  These capabilities, regardless of our medium of expression, give us the potential to foster positive change in our community, in the world! They make our art meaningful.  They give us inner peace. If only in the midst of those moments of despair could we just get over ourselves and see them as stepping stones towards higher realms of spirituality.  If only, rather than fear them, we could accept them, forage them for the secrets they possess!

I’ll get off my soapbox and tell you about something I always used to tell my adult ESL students.  Many of them would arrive into my classroom feeling embarrassed. In turn they would often become paralyzed or inflamed when I would, however gently, point out an error.  After they got to know me and they understood that my goal for them was simply that they learn, the energy would always shift into a comfortable, relaxed place.  Throughout the year, when I’d notice frustration creep into their faces, I’d reiterate, “Errores…GOOOOOOD!,” with some hammed up facial expressions – many thanks, Yale School of Drama.  “No errores, no clase,” meaning in the most basic terms that mistakes are good, that if you don’t make them you don’t need to be in my class.  They would always laugh.

On the last day of the academic year and the last day of my career as a teacher, I brought my cardmaking supplies to class.  This was June of 2011.  The students were to make cards for themselves that I would mail to them in a year.  In them, they would write to their future selves, including whatever they wanted to write in them – encouragement, thankfulness, the accomplishment of goals that they had set for themselves. All of them, women, men, some majorly macho men, some with hands stained from grease or paint, they all completely went into the creative zone.  Actually, they dove.  I have a feeling that many of them had never had the opportunity or inkling to do anything artistic.  It was amazing to witness.  Precious, really.  If they were OK with me reading their cards, I instructed them just to leave the envelope unsealed.  When I went home and opened their cards, so many of them had written that simple phrase, half English, half Spanish, “ERRORES, GOOD!” If not basic English grammar or vocabulary, this one phrase had stuck, had cemented, if you will. Even though teaching them quite often felt like moving mountains, this one accomplishment on my part made me feel like maybe I got some uniquely good karma points.

Inside the classroom and in life, this is true. Those mistakes keep us growing and learning, they keep us humble.

Student Card

Marvin is one of the sweetest young men I’ve met. This became his mantra, and it served him well.  I doubt he had much schooling in Guatemala, and at the outset, he had much difficulty.  But he grew leaps and bounds.

Student Card #2

Julie had terrible experiences in school growing up in Nicaragua and was often beaten for making errors.  In our class, she would often tremble if called on.  In light of her circumstances, I have so much admiration for her persistence.

Last day of school

Card front

Mistakes are good!

What a blessing, to have in my life right now the time to reflect and absorb. I’ve been learning a few new skills and of course have felt humbled in the process.  While getting over a strange hesitation to play with my Wacom tablet (where is that coming from?) I’ve been rocking the knitting needles like a vandal.  Since I now understand how to cable…

Cable Knit

Mabu, my cocker spaniel, will shortly be sporting a very handsome fern colored sweater with a cable down the back.

Cable Knit

Cable Knit

So cool! Love love love the texture. Below you will see my second experience with thumb gusset for legs on a doggie sweater.  I’m feeling much more comfortable with make one lefts and make one rights.  Problem is, at a certain point with the gussets, I run out of space on my circular knitting needles and the knitting becomes a bit difficult.

Thumb Gusset Dog Sweater Knitting

Thumb Gusset for legs on Doggie Sweater

So here comes a small experience in humility.  I will preface by saying that in order not to become a yarn hoarder, I’m trying to start this craft with healthy practices and use up the yarn I have before purchasing more.  That said, I’m trying to learn brioche stitch and I can’t see what I’m doing with this effing yarn!  The yarn is beautiful, but for someone trying to learn this technique, it is a pain in the neck.  I can’t count how many times I couldn’t figure out what was going on and had to rip out everything whilst muttering an assortment of expletives.  Finally, I decided to just change plans, knit the whole thing and use the project as an opportunity to learn how to knit Continental style.  More expletives as I tried to get my hands to do what they were supposed to.  But I finally got it, and I must say, once I got into a rhythm, it proved to be a very satisfying way to knit.  I’m actually able to hold my needles in both hands like a normal person would instead of propping the right needle perpendicularly up against my belly and bruising myself.

This is the beginning of the project, a scarf done Continental style!

Continental style knitting

Continental Style Knitting

This way of knitting is awesome because the fingers need to move much less and I can go longer without cramping.  I found a really great video on youtube which helped me finally get the hang of it. Lorilee Beltman of City Knitting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gives some wonderful instruction.

I’ve enjoyed blogging with you today. Wish me luck as I begin drawing with my Wacom! I’d love to hear about challenges and learning in your artistic or crafty journey – please comment!


One thought on “The importance of humility

  1. Pingback: Hampton Art’s Designer of the Day! | contadina k

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