3,500 miles, 14 states, 2 provinces, lessons learnt: We are not built to do big things alone, we are built to do them together

Today’s been my last full day in NYC, and in America. And I’m a bit sad about it.

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This nearly month trip has been a blast and an inspiration. It’s been a frank reminder that our time is too valuable to let a moment go to waste. We need steal as much life as we can out of each day. And I certainly feel like we have done this every single day for 28 days.

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This is mainly due to my ride-or-die-hommie – Colleen – the driver, who drove over 3,5000 miles around north America (Thanks so much Colleen!). Think driving miss daisy meets velema and louise. we visited 14 USA states and 2 provinces in Canada! I visited 6 whole new places/cities – making my knowledge of certain states that I had already ticked off before – even better! With Pittsburg being one of my favourite new cities to have visited. Must be that steel connection. I love understated, post industrial, arty cities *cough*-sheffield-*cough*

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We drove through the most glorious sunsets, that hung around for an hour in all their pinky, orange and purple gloriness. In the end it was like we were actually chasing the sunsets. The more south and west we went, the longer they hung around, felt like you could touch them and looked like paintings in photos.

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We hardly arrived anywhere on time between each destination, (thanks google maps when we were planning for the lies!) but it just goes to show that it’s the journey that matters, and it was never about the destination anyways (especially given that our destination would be back where we had started). In the wrong turns and google suggested adventures, we discovered uncharted areas, and ghost towns of rich-pasts, farm lands, mountains, kangaroo, gems, moon-views, world wonders, the brightest stars and the clearest skies! endless waffle houses and many a gas-station toilet.

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We saw dinosaurs, ate at 120 year old functioning ice-cream parlours, farms of various sizes including the massive production of milk for the North of the USA. We chased waterfalls, and slept in places that felt like we could be in a horror movie — or places that only a protagonist would be staying in to run away from something in their past. (this was emily’s house BTW – deep in a rainforest in Georgia — she said we wouldn’t find it – and boy-was she right!)

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We got some incredible emily warning ceramics, and colleen booked an AirBnB that looked like it was decorated in 1920’s (& i swear down it could have been haunted, i had to sleep with the light on- C still thinks i’m being dramatic about it- but those who saw my insta-story will know the truth).

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I learnt that Colleen sleep walks and talks (don’t worry, she mostly did this in motels/hotels). We nearly picked up a hitchhiker (he invited himself along and we had to politely decline saying the car was too full of pottery for him to have a seat & we were heading to dinasour world next) He quickly disappeared once he thought that *we* were the weirdos. And I also learnt that Colleen is very opinionated about things including road-side eateries. I want her to start a podcast or youtube channel where people just give her a subject and she’ll rift about how scandal-less or waste of time/money it is, or how amazing it is.

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I learn about a dude called Mr Rodgers and how to be kind to ourselves and others through his teachings (& colleen’s pure love for him). and all things from Pittsburgh.

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My french is still LA-TERRIBLE, c’est very bad. (the only time i sound proper yorkshire is when i speak another language). I was constipated for 3/4 of the whole time here (HA). And i ripped my stitches out of my mouth by accident eating SI Broccli! HA!

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Time Zones confused us often. Did you know Tennessee & Kentucky & Chicago is central zone but parts of Indiana and Ohio is not?! very confusing. Tax across the USA is wild. Chicago was the most expensive. We’ve tried lots of foods, from 10am ice-cream in Columbus, Ohio, to mexican breakfasts in Chicago, to Wah Wah gas station food, the biggest slices of pizza in philly (& the worst greek salad haha), to sweet potato pancakes in the south, chicken & waffles, pirogies of all types, hot dogs, my fav tacos and “water and leaf” soups, oatmeal shakes, piles and piles of freshly prepared dumplings, my fav Chinese- PHU-GEES in NH and beyond. I keep ordering far too much food and don’t learn.

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My Sandy Island adventures got me chasing sunrises, i drank too much and kept Lea up chatting absolute bollocks. It made me fully miss sandy summers. I got to see my crew from over the years including Dave B, and Kate, and Julia. Vanda and I reminisced about our Sydney adventures. and Dani and the crew and I went Northern Lights hunting! It feels so weird and good to have a base there. A place that feels like a home. Like a good Smizz Horcrux. I feel like bits of my soul is in NYC and sandy Island. Who knew New Hampshire would ever be a smizz place?

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I’ve spent a good month being glad for life, surrounded by people who I love, doing what I love, & meeting more new super awesome people. I’ve been shown many true and generous acts of kindness this year – here in the USA and back at home. And I’m completely humbled and for ever grateful for these. Thanks just doesn’t seem to come even close to how i want to say Thank you! to EVERYONE!

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one morning this summer before my trip here – with my mouth in stitches, and appointment sheets for the next abdominal surgery, I burst into tears over breakfast, convinced that this illness had drained me of my creative & living/Smizz abilities. Even in that dark moment, though, I knew that my co-workers & friends wouldn’t let me fail. And it isn’t just picking up the baton when I drop it; they’ve (you’ve) motivated and encouraged me through periods of lucidity to art/live the best I could. I’m so damn lucky.

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I feel that I have a little more understanding of what it means to fall over and feel that you have to get up, no matter what you have to leave behind in the process. This is an easy realization to come to because I’m pretty lucky that I have you -all- the amazing people in my life, who have supported me & helped me to live. Whatever i’ve lost, you make it feel like i’m nearly whole. All I have is that you should appreciate what you’ve got.

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I tend to do these trips when I’m sort of running away from what’s been happening to me. It hurts. But I’ve thought long & hard about what I want out of life. And i want to be here for at least another 5 years.

Today I got to see Alex 1 last time, and the way he talks about leadership & connecting always inspires me and i feel it in the pitt of my stomach. (i can’t wait for his future book). As he says, doctors check for pulses but he checks his people. And that’s what i love about him, and something i’m trying to aim for too. My USA trips are always inspiring me to be better, to commit to my work, to give back to my community. I have some time, and if I use it well. It will be more than enough.

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through all this stuff, I feel like I’ve grown up a second time. I’m broken; But I am alive. I’m coming home to  fix some more gnarly health stuff, but i’m re-charged to finish my PHD, start my new work contracts using arts based research methods in public health and doing research into social detriments and getting rid of these health inequalities as much as we can through ensuring access is made for the people who need these services. and restructing injustice things within policy and beyond. I’m looking forward to really starting to lay the bones down for “REAL “- a business adventure with Helen doing social-justice through creative practice. and lots of stuff in between.

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i’m constantly looking forward to sunsets and bike rides and tacos and getting dirt on my boots and feeling grass between my toes and feeling the calm breeze sweep my face as i drive with the windows down. these are the small, forgettable pieces of life that i think contain all the magic, all the billion little tiny disco ball reflections and retractions of the love and light in this world.

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This life is teaching me that there are golden moments, and the darkness cannot touch them. I’m learning the art of discovering those moments, the ones hiding in hard moments and challenging days. but man.. is it worth it.

Wish me luck! and see y’all later!

On Navigating Stuckness

I’ve loved a lot of cities, but I didn’t know what it was like to be *in love* with a city, until New York. 

Today I take my flight home (and i’m bringing the shingles back with me too). Whilst I’m not best pleased to leave, it marks another summer that I’m still here, kickin’ it and this fact feels good. After a year of falls, bike-accidents, too many punctures to count,  fires, shingles, doom-headache-facial-numbness-from-hell, treatments, steep learning curves, sleep-less nights, never-ending deadlines, constant doubt and having to rebuild my confidence to name a few – I’m feeling pretty [very] lucky. 

Time is already a tough customer, but it is torturous when you start measuring it. Becoming a new parent is a struggle (as most of my friends are now new parents! congrats, guys!). Starting a new course is a struggle. Staying with your values and staying healthy and keeping a good perspective is a struggle. But struggling is good. It is one of the only things that exercise the deep well of will and vitality within us. That help us dig into ourselves deeper, that push us to grow.

I went back to Sandy Island this vacation on different terms than previous years. And I was welcomed with so much warmth and posters everywhere that said WELCOME BACK SMIZZ! I felt like I had come home. I can’t explain the feeling.

When I think about my time at Sandy I just don’t know where to begin. It was there where I started to get the help I needed when I fell sick a few years ago now, and well, it’s always on my mind because ALL of my friends (sandy, donx, sheffo, nyc, everyone!) came together to help me through it all – and they still are. falling sick has taught me a lot about loss and resilience and the will to live and adapt. I feel broken, always. But when I start talking about the outpouring of love and support that I had received since my illness and accidents, ect, I become really weepy. Because I realized that for the first time in my life, I was truly letting love into my heart. Losing a small part of me has connected me to others in a way I had never felt. And whilst I feel broken, a sense of myself lost from feeling constantly tired and in pain, in a way, I feel as if I have gained much more.

This trip I’ve had the chance to see people I never thought I’d get to see again (or for a very long time). I got to see friends, and meet their friends, and meet their awesome boyfriends. I got to go to my first ever garage jamming session. I got to drink in brooklyn dive bars and see a record album release party! I saw a hipster version of charlie & chocolate factory store, got to see more of the sketchbook project, tried properly independently brewed coffee (still think coffee is gross), I gave up my seat on a bolt bus so 2 kid brothers could sit together and then the people on the bus all gave me an applause?! i went into the lake, felt sand between my toes, watched a new hampshire sunset. Went to my favourite chinese restaurant in  Meredith, NH with 3 great amazing people and the owners remembered not only who I was – but also what my favourite dish was! I went to my favourite thai-food place and managed to get really good Thai-iced tea. I survived 3 craz thunder-storms, including when I was on a BOAT! I made some cool new friends, and stayed up until 4am learning all about my new friends lives. I got a t-shirt with my artwork on ! And then managed to get a ride all the way from NH to Brooklyn, for free, so I could get there to NYC in time to see the US Open with another super special person who took me! I officially fell asleep on the streets of NYC whist waiting in line to get super awesome improve comedy free tickets. and I’ve drank enough delicious horchata to last until my next trip. 

I’ve done lots more, and ate a lot more food than mentioned here. But this stands out.

 I can say that i’m old enough to have a past with some regrets, but young enough to feel like I have a stake in the game for righting the course, and self-obsessed enough to have a hyper-vigilant sense of justice. I feel it. Life is a set of nested envelopes. 

“In the trade off between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness.” – Jonathan Harris

My trip reminds me that we need to work on things that will last.  I leave this here as a reminder to write the counter-point to this quote. My current belief is that after timelessness comes a second stage of timeliness: attention to quality time with people and interests you love, independent from their longevity.

As I’ve said before, I have some time left, and if I use it well, it will be more than enough.

Hopefully I will see you USA folks soon (without the gross shingles), and to my UK friends – I’m going to see you all super soon to catch up! 

Everything is fragile.

Mid-20’s isn’t that old, but I feel like I’ve aged 2 lifetimes in the past 3 years. Maybe aging like that makes you look back a bit more. Just as you can see from my blog, my focuses in life have shifted; I’m not just looking for self-improvement in what I can change per-say, but  more to learn how to have grace in the parts of me that won’t budge, or have grace in things I can’t control right now.

One of the hardest parts of having to adapt to being a much slower, less  interesting and hardly a multi-tasker Smizz due to illness, is being observed 24/7. I used to invite people to watch my performance of trying to make it in the artworld— I’d post lots of things I’d make, constantly advertise myself – I kind of craved the attention— but I had no idea that it was going to open me up to some damaging mindsets. It now makes me feel like I need to be on top of my shit 24 hours a day, and I can’t do that anymore. Mainly because I’m either in bed (mostly), studying (secondly),  drawing, or out trying to live life (making up for 1 & 2).  I’ve been trying to learn the “It’s okay to say no to things sometimes. Because if you can’t say no, you can’t fully say yes”.

I’m no longer  living up to the persona I assigned to myself.  I feel like I’m not only letting everyone down who invested their time into me, but I’ve let it make me believe I’m letting myself down too.

So after feeling like I was going to die, and feeling really sorry for myself. After not having the mental /energy capacity to work on my own work, just enough to work on others (which has been/is amazing, and I needed it to survive- both mentally & financially). After seeing people who I admire and respect because of their vision & dignity, struggle in this world. After months and months and months of wishing I could be part of it,  I returned from this ordeal to resume work and rejoin the artworld, but  my membership had expired. I felt like the Artworld had forgotten about me. And everything I made and saw seemed like trivial bullshit—because quite a bit of it was/is (not all of it). Disingenious money grabs.  all speed was stupid.  Some things was just despicable, because it stole the dignity of everyone involved. We deserve better.

This is harsh criticism, and way super cynical, but it is how I felt at the time. These feelings have eased a lil bit, but I’ve always had a critical view on the Artworld because I’ve always been coming from a disadvantaged point anyways. And I’m a Marxist. However, noticing the bad also makes it easier to see and notice the good. Many of the things I love about the artworld are still here, and doing maybe better than some of the crappy parts of the Artworld.

 

My friends, Lesley Guy & Dale Holmes did this super cool show  at Bloc Projects in Sheffield about Pizza  a few weeks ago. It was so good I went home & ordered a Domineos.

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One of the best artists out there Gregory Sholette is trying to crowd-source this phenomenal project. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/imaginary-archive-kyiv –  Which is an Imaginary Archive – a collection of fictional and real documents from a past whose future never arrived of Ukraine. It’s such a special and important exhibition, and so necessary at this time, so if you can find the time/$ to support it, that would be amazing!

 

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I really, really, really want to see William Powhida’s phenomenal “overculture” show at the most AMAZING gallery Postmasters NY, that just opened this week. Powhida’s practice is about helping us see how fucked up things are and to inspire us to strive to a world of justice, supporting (art) world which encourages criticality and  risks.  it’s basically the (art)world we all really want, yet too scared to bite the hand that feeds us.  I keep putting (art) like this, because the artworld is just a microscopism of the ‘real’ fucked up world. Every problem within the artworld is a problem within non-art-related society. Mainly because it’s the same shitty force that drives both: greed and value in the banal, and unethical under-valued/under-paid labour in order to make $$. When in actuality, there’s significant power in our dark-matter-ness if we realize it, together.

 

My focus  and definition on “progress” made it easy  for me to forget that you can turn around from traveling in a wrong direction, and return to the place where things last felt right. You can go back. Now I feel like I’m starting from the beginning with my personal art practice, and it felt like a failure. But I’m slowly accepting that sometimes going back is sometimes progress.

A few painful years has taught me 1 of the important lessons about life: you only become bulletproof when you refuse to disguise your injuries. The wounds are a gift: You learn how to accept help, and better yet, how to better give it. This in turn is another reason why I’m studying again, to emulate the best care & understanding I kind of know that the patient needs. Remember: if you need help. Ask for it. We can’t do it all alone. All the time.

Life is now somehow more precious and less. I’m now back to my humble beginnings: To share what you know.

So that’s part of what I’ve been quietly doing/working on with F/O/R/C/E, a collaboration with Paul Harrison and a few others – >  forcelectures.org

Don’t wait for a life disaster to be the thing that spurs you into action. Everything is fragile and you are more resilient than you think.

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Some Doc/Fest 2012 awards I’ve drawn

I’ve been quiet on here for about a month. Which has actually been a really good thing! As i’ve been busy, busy, busy!

Here’s some drawings I’ve done for Doc/Fest this year. I will be Live-Illustrative-Mapping the Summit and some talks at the Festival on Weds and Thursday. And also TEDxSheffield through an app called Mixel. It’s gonna be something different & hopefully exciting!  I’m super excited and really incredibly nervous for both TEDx & Doc/Fest.  What incredible opportunities to have?! I can’t thank them enough for it because it really is something i look forward to each year. If you’re heading to either or both of these events, make sure you give Sarah Smizz a holla. I need to shake off my ridiculously awkward shy-ness with meeting important and awesome people. And i need to get better at the networking but most importantly i just genuinely love meeting amazing and inspirational and motivated people! Which is you if you’re going there!

I hope to post some stuff this weekend as a taster of  what to expect from the TEDx stuff! Maybe.

 

RoadTrip USA inspiration blog

You know tumblr’s are all the range right. It’s because they make other peoples images look awesome. As a lil something, something to inspire me – keep me focused for the summer – take my mind off my weird health issues, I’m putting a kick ass tumblr together of great images of America & roadtrips – Until I can pop my own up during/after the roadtrip. Keep it locked here! http://roadtripsmizz.tumblr.com/

Other Tumblr’s of mine: http://streetarchitect.tumblr.com & the old journal of my Chicago days: http://chitownsmizz.tumblr.com/

THE SLAM IS BACK! ‘NOW IS NOW’ 1st Feb – 7:30pm, Bloc Projects, Sheffield. FREE

 

Do you remember SlamJam, followers? Do you even remember CAKE? After months of cruel neglect, or as we would call it re-branding, re-structuring, re-analyzing, I wouldn’t blame anyone who might turn tail in search of other, more dependable art-project-spaces, esp. in Sheffield. But this is what happens when you and your collective-team-mates, like jerks, leave everything and everyone you know behind for a new job in a new country for a bit, then have to work long hours away from the hub of it all. These past few months have seen more changes in CAKEs life than I could ever have anticipated – mostly exciting, some heartbreaking. I intend to resume a dependable regime of posting, and events and discussions in order to document what happens next. Can you forgive us? I hope so. Let’s do this thing.

 

SLAM: ‘NOW IS NOW’

WHERE: Bloc Projects, 71 Eyre Lane, Sheffield S1 4RB

WHEN: 1st FEB 2012, 7:30pm

OTHER INFO:  OPEN-MIC but book your place for a definate spot by emailing: hello@cakeeveryone.com. FREE. CHEAP BOOZE. AMAZING TALENT. GREAT TIMES.

ABOUT SLAMJAM:

SLAM (JAM) is a bi annual slam poetry and performance night. Started as an event to involve audience members as well as an open platform to share existential and poetic actions, SLAM became an exciting improv night of performance and community.

Starting with a line – up of already confirmed impressive performers, the poets/artists/amazing folks who participate  usually create an ecstatic environment that makes the rest of the audience (YOU) want to get up and perform. We engage such a great community that there aren’t any feelings of being inferior, or any need to worry about failing. There’s not a competitive edge, but more an equal platform to experiment on. In just one moment  at SLAM-JAM, you can get up, and test, practice or perform something, an idea, you’ve had brewing or just thought of. We think that this is what makes SLAM different from your normal poetry-reading night. No experience necessary. Perhaps the liquor served (donation based) also helps set the tone of openness. Oh, and did we say it’s completely FREE. (Donations are always welcomed).

Poster coming soon.