Resistance is Futile- I am “a artist.”

Not too long ago, my mom and I rediscovered a film of my 7th birthday party. We watched as my mother interviewed each of my semi-toothless friends about their future aspirations- “a doctor, a mommy, a teacher, a vet”. As each little girl relayed their dreams with gap toothed smiles, I grew curious about what my own scrawny, short-haired, seven-year old self would say. And I was surprised by the answer.

“A artist”.

My mom and I turned to each other in awe. How could a seven-year old be so insightful?

I didn’t know much at that time, especially when it came to hairstyles, but I knew what I wanted, boy hair and all. If only I’d continued to carry the same confidence as that seven-year old. I’ve spent the past 15 years denying something that has been such an important part of my life for fear of- I don’t know what. Failure? Self-indulgence? Being too contrived? Taking a risk? Fear is a funny thing. It holds us back before we even know what it looks like, or what exactly it is that we’re afraid of.

The thing is, I like to create. I always have, in one way or another, whether it was hand sewing costumes for Halloween or plays, or crafting cards for any possible holiday or celebration. One summer, my friend and I spent hours making and delivering anonymous cards to the neighborhood that just read “have a nice day”. Each one was different.

And I don’t know who I was kidding. I had endless sketchbooks filled with doodles and costume designs, and journals embellished with ‘marginal’ drawings. When I went to a Fine Arts high school to study theater, I double majored in art with a passion for painting. And though I went to college for psychology, a serendipitous turn of events led me to studio work and to becoming an art teacher.

But I found that as I taught young artists to embrace their own creations, discover their personal marks, and celebrate the “happy accidents”, I struggled to do that for myself. It wasn’t until my semester abroad in Greece, where I realized how much I learned, how much I knew, and how much I truly loved to paint, that I finally allowed myself to acknowledge what that seven-year old did with such ease.

I am ‘a artist’.

I am an artist who loves to paint. Loves to capture the moments in life- the subtle connections, and the little things that make us smile or wonder. I am an artist who still uses that word with trepidation. Who just wants to create. To capture the magnificence of the ‘ordinary’ within the corners of canvas. I am an artist who finally took the plunge.

And created a website.

So fears aside, today I am admitting that I am an artist, and introducing a new chapter, a new part of my blogging experience, and a new website:

Annakotecki.com

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Happy Friday! This weekend- do something that scares you 🙂 

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The Waiting Game

I wrote this a while ago, and while I’m finally back in France (and travel stories will ensue), I wanted to share.  

The thought of entering that waiting room terrified me. Because then it was real. Then I actually had to face the fact that my grandma was undergoing intense surgery. That the tearful laughter we shared the night before in the hotel lobby, might just be the last time we laughed together.

That was a possibility that no part of me was willing to face.

I was terrified that the waiting room would be sterile, dark and bleak. That it would feel oppressive and daunting. And that the hard shell of denial that I had so diligently worn for the past month, would crack in seconds. But I was surprised to enter an area that was spacious and open, filled with sunlight, and the buzz of cheery conversation.

Feeling mildly relieved, my family settled in with our breakfast tacos and nervous chatter about the weather and how long we thought we’d be in the waiting room. Would it really be over in 8 hours? Could it possibly be shorter, with good news that would end this unsettling wait? Continue reading

Kindness Counts

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Where did time go? How does it fly by so quickly? I have so many ‘return to the States’ observations, thoughts and general posts whirling around in my brain. But here we are- a month later and I’m just now posting. I guess being home for the first time in a year, coupled with a plethora of familial emotions will take its toll on time.

Plus I’m a horrible snowball procrastinator. Just the worst. If I let something slide, and then slide even a little bit more, it snowballs into this seemingly overwhelming task that occupies too much of my thoughts, and thus results in a complete system shut down- a.k.a. curling into a blanket on my dad’s couch and watching the worst American television. Seriously. Is it just me, or has American TV gotten even more dramatic, over the top, expulsive, and so generally disgusting that you somehow can’t put down the remote and oddly continue to watch in shock (and awe) at this train wreck that is television? My return to America (or should I say ‘Merica) was christened with walking into the hotel room where my sister was watching Honey Boo Boo. Enough said.

But I digress. There will be other times, other posts to rant about overweight hicks on “reality” TV, or terrifying trashy pop stars occupying all forms of social media, and even American news. Right now I want to talk about kindness. About having patience, going above and beyond, stepping outside of your daily routine, and generally giving a shit at a time when ultimately, it’s easier not to. Continue reading

Life’s Rewards (and awards!)

Happy Bastille Day! (Or as I recently learned- quatorze juillet. Apparently no one actually calls it Bastille day…I guess like no one really says Independence day for the 4th of July…)

But happy it is indeed, as summer is in full swing with a free MIKA concert, visiting family friends (a.k.a. the surrogate family or the family ambassadors…), new dining out adventures, swimming in a beautiful mountain lake, and exploring quaint Annecy (future blog post on Annecy to come)!

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To add to the happiness- I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger award! I’ve really enjoyed getting into the blogger community- sharing experiences, opinions, adventures and words! So thanks to all the followers- family, friends, and blogging community- especially as I fumble my way not only through a foreign country but through the blogging world as well!

Enough sentiment. Here are the rules for the award: Continue reading

Paris Je t’aime

Where else can you finish your first “night” at 6:30 am, and your second at 8:00 am after you’ve watched the sun rise and the commuters come out? They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, but Paris definitely gives New York a run for its money. And Paris by night truly is enchanting.

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This past weekend I went for a short visit to see my friend Luke from Boston. After an exhausting day struggling with a computer virus, checked out students and no-show classes, I was happy to make my way to Paris sans train complications. After navigating to our host’s house, happily reuniting with Luke and filling up on delicious wine, cheese and baguette, it was time for the match de foot! As soon as we exited the metro, you could feel the energy shift in the streets. Crowds of fans donning blue attire and chicken? hats swarmed into the stadium equipped with flags, whistles and horns. I was beside myself as we took our amazing seats and stood for the French anthem. The excitement that I felt as a 12 year old, rooting alongside the dedicated French fans in bars as we screamed at the television, flooded back as I stood there in person screaming at the actual players, “allez les bleus!” I laughed in disbelief and amusement as the French booed their own players for missed goals or actions not up to par. Only the French would feel so offended by anything other than perfection. As the flags flew, the horns blazed and the roar of the wave that made the Red Sox stadium sound like a mere trickle passed through the crowd, I couldn’t help but think “Is this real life??” Georgia gave France a difficult beginning, but the game finished with a satisfying 3-1.

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The stade!

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The dedicated fan section

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The group!

The night continued with rejoicing in the streets, late night “burritos” (panini pressed and filled with thai rice- but at least they had black beans!!), a house party, followed by a random dive bar with only men and a bizarre selection of 90s music, another surprise dance bar with gummy bear drinks and wonderful west african music, and ending at the Notre Dame where a crowd of teenagers excitedly interrogated us on and impressed us with their knowledge of american culture. Had I not spent the past 6 months working with teenagers, I think I might have been intimidated or annoyed by these kids. However their enthusiasm amused me and my heart went out to one in particular- a Syrian immigrant who came to France for the Army even though he wanted to do graphic design. His face lit up when I told him I taught art in the states and as we left I couldn’t help but tell him not to give up on his artistic passion.

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Notre Dame at night

Day two got off to a late start, but we made our way to the Château de Vincennes originally constructed as a hunting lodge for Louis VII in the 12th century. It was bizarre to see a château in the middle of apartments and shops and to witness an actual prison tower (the kind you would imagine Rapunzel in).

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This is older than Versailles!

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Love the Gothic style

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Ginger Reunion!

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The tower looks much more impressive up close

After enjoying the warm weather at an outdoor cafe, we returned home for aperos and received a special treat- Paris by car. We were lucky enough not only to stay with our French friend in Paris, but to stay with one who happily offered us a personal tour of Paris by night. As we passed the famous monuments and places- Louvre, Bastille, Oblisque, Orsay- I couldn’t help but feel mesmerized by Paris. The glow of the lights, the old buildings, the winding streets, the history encompassing all- it really was enchanting. My favorite moment came as we drove down the Champs-Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe. I have walked to, around, on top of and under the Arc, but it was amazing to see it from a perfectly centered view as it grew ever closer along the strip of lights.

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Night Tour

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Picture doesn’t quite do it justice

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Illuminated Arc

Our next stop took us to another house party. Unfortunately we were not in the loop, and had no idea that is was not only a birthday, but also a themed party. Apparently the French love to do theme parties starting with letters. Since Charlotte was the birthday girl, everyone dressed in C related attire. It made for great conversation starters to meet people and call out across the room “Chat!”, “Cleopatra”, “Cowboy”, “Charlie” (The French Waldo- weird, I know.) Our night continued with more bar hoping, champagne on the subway, and eventually the Centre Pompidou- at 5 in the morning. It was the last weekend of the Dali exhibit and as a result it was open for 24 hours. 

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Late night/early morning excursion

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We got in!

Convinced we would be the only ones there, we were quite surprised to discover the contrary- a gallery full of people. What a surreal experience- to be in Paris, in an exhibit at 5 am wandering among all types of people and having time to take in Dali’s actual work. I relished the time and intimately stared at and studied Dali’s brush strokes, his choice of color, and bizarre subject matter. It was all the more surreal to exit as the sky shifted from a deep blue to a rosy purple.

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Loved the colors in this one

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Wait for it…

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Too cool!

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The shift

Our final destination brought us to the Eiffle tower as the sun came up. Unfortunately the Paris weather prevented the viewing of an actual sunrise, but the experience was no less impressive. We stood under the massive tower as it penetrated the morning mist, listening to the birds waking up and watching Paris come alive. I felt rejuvenated and overwhelmed. What an amazing adventure. What a treat to remember why I love France, to embrace new experiences, to feel the romantic night of Paris, to take in these famous sites at off hours. It is so rare to have a personal moment with monuments without the hassle of crowds, the noise of tourism, and the rush of “gotta see this quickly!”

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Time for intimacy

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Good Morning

As we walked away, delirious and tired, I couldn’t help but smile and think about what Luke said earlier in an outburst of delight (though he will tell you otherwise), “Everything I’ve ever wanted has happened!”

How lucky were are to have these moments.

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I can be such a recluse sometimes. Fortunately tonight was not one of those nights. After quite the busy weekend (wonderful but a tad chaotic day trip in Mulhouse- more on that to come), I was not feeling entirely enthused to take my precious time to my professor’s house to deliriously stumble through a dinner filled with French. But I decided when in France…suck it up and get involved. And boy am I glad that I did.

Not only did I have succulent sweet wine, and a delicious raclette dinner (originally from Switzerland, consisting of savory melted cheese poured over potatoes and onions), but I managed to talk entirely in French…for the most part. And I was surprised. I talked about the death penalty in Texas, how to say hello in Turkish, my opinions on Romney, why I chose to be vegetarian, how capitalism is hurting our nation, how my father is a conspiracy theorist, how I’m trying to learn the ukulele, our cliches of the French (eat frogs and snails, don’t shower, are semi pretentious, smoke and complain all the time…) and many other things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I held my own in a French conversation! Of course it was not as articulate as I would’ve liked, maybe even verged on a spastic 8 year old’s interpretation of politics, but it’s a start!

And moments like these remind me of why I got that first tatoo 3 years ago. I wanted to always remember to thrive, to flourish. And as weird as it might sound, tonight I experienced my own personal eudaimonia.

And ultimately I left the night feeling full- not just of raclette, but of life. I felt invigorated by my own small personal accomplishments in French, but also by the people. I loved hearing their stories, getting little snipets of their lives. One man, who most certainly belongs in the organic food movement in Austin, kept saying that I had “good energy”. Normally I would’ve smirked at such a thing, but tonight I smiled.

Love this