Some of you may feel that your life is near perfection. That the path you laid out for yourself is clear, smooth, and that you are well on your way to a blissful future. Congratulations.
For the rest of us, life is a car built in the year we were born. Of course it needs the occasional tweaking and tuning to stay running.
A dream from childhood fades away by high school. A career interest is killed by college courses and internships. The “perfect” job becomes a nightmare, the “perfect” city transforms beyond recognition, the “perfect” person, well, you hope to never see them again.
Whatever, whoever, and however the case, we need to allow the space to swerve, to change path, goals, loves, lives if necessary.
I've had several swerves. Some include: changing from ballet shoes to business suits; information technology to marketing; and well, I won’t name any names.
Lately I have noticed a kind of false sense of security among some. The belief that if you do everything right in the present, you’ll be okay forever. And what's worse, I noticed that if people are swerving in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, people often think they have done something wrong.
It is never too early or late to swerve. Well, once you’re dead, then it is too late. Until then, swerve if you gotta swerve.
My biggest swerve, so far, happened when I was 35. Sitting on the floor, heart deflated, searching for answers, and looking up at my most prized possessions: my books. Stacked from floor to cleaning, musty $1 flea market paperbacks on the top shelves and at the bottom, expensive, hard bound fashion, art and design books. I wailed, “I am so unhappy; What I am going to do?” I decided that I would let my books guide me.
Taking inventory of all the books I owned, I decided that whatever topics showed up the most was how I would spend my next chapter of life. Fashion, art, and design beat out all other topics. So off to graduate school I went and through a fellowship I ended up in Kenya. I was 38 when I finished with my master’s degree. I went on to teach in New York City, Pittsburgh, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
But I did not go to grad school to teach, so ... swerve! That's when I started designing and working in collaboration with women artisans from around the world. That was five years ago.
It is not easy, if I did an inventory of my life or a comparison checklist (always a bad idea), my life would be in the No category: husband, kids, house.
In Yes: global community of creative people; creative spirit, too long dormant, revived and very much alive; two full passports; a trunk full of camping equipment ready for my return in Olorgesailie Maasai village in Kenya; a greater understanding of the Haudenosaunee heritage of Pittsburgh; and the drive to fulfill even bigger life goals.
This is not to say that the current No and Yes lists cannot merge into one Yes list. This is just how it has worked for me right now.
And of course, if it changes? Swerve.