Having just passed the one year point of running my own non-profit functioning – arts collective/business entity thing is something of a triumph, because despite the lack of referential models and extremely limited business experience, we made it this far.

We’re at a point of assessment, evaluation and revision. One year of data in the form of incidents, project successes, delays and failures, trouble-shooting, and make-it-work moments has given us a model to at least move forward from.

This was always part of the deal: to weave our own path as we move on it.

There is this word – 感慨 (gan kai), something like an emotional imprint that causes you to sigh, to pause, to exhale – a moment of littleness in the presence of something bigger: knowledge, a person, truth, recognition.

This post is my 感慨 in the presence of the last year,

Turning over the recent past

The learning curve is steep and full of turns.

This means if you keep yourself open to understanding and learning, there’s no way you can’t learn and learn better as you go. The curve will teach you the littleness of your own vision, but also hopefully inspire you to seek out that which you think is great and good and befriend it.

Tell your stories. You will hear better stories.

You will meet so many people who will share with you when you reach out and want to listen. They will inspire you, encourage you and change you. Every hour spent at some cafe in the city will bring you into the lives of people you would otherwise never meet. They will become workers in your work, friends in your life, and artists in your craft.

Interdependence will keep you grounded and your focus clear.

There are too many competing thoughts within your own brain, let alone the opinions of the people and communities around you. Relying on your network of support will keep you rooted in what matters, and bouncing your thoughts off the people around you will help you eliminate unnecessary noise.

People will take you and your work for granted.

As the 一姐, it is your responsibility to hold up the structure of the work environment, and to enable and protect the work conditions that your artists and staff work in. They will not see this effort, and they are not supposed to. But even your friends and family will not always know and acknowledge the amount of work you do on a daily basis. You will be tired, and perhaps more than once consider whether or not it is worth continuing.

People will let you down.

The fine art of balance is knowing how to build breathing room. It is necessary to understand that when working with so many different people, there are bound to be circumstances and situations where your lives (although crossing), are also in such different places that you cannot see or understand what is happening in theirs. At the same time, their absence, loss of contact, or poor/rushed work has permanent ramifications on other parts of the collective they are not seeing, that you will then have to absorb. This is the norm, not the exception: become better at doing it. Learn which posture to take when the moment comes and be willing to hold firm to what is important.

Mapping the near future

Remember, the value of your work and the value of you are not 100% overlapping. You are who you are not just as a sum total of experiences, but also of contradictions, changes, decisions and learning. There are parts of you that move through this world, and parts of you that the world moves through.

Don’t be afraid to let go of the things that are not right anymore, but also, don’t be afraid to confront yourself to become something that is right.

I am not a fan of the word “passion”. I strive for something closer to wonder. Wonder leaves me speechless, and shakes me to the core. Wonder is present in the worst and best of times. It shows me there are limits to what I can do and what I know. Yet at the same time, it will be fully present when I surpass what I thought was the extent of my capacity, or when I am helped across a threshold into something bigger than me altogether.
Wonder makes me a writer.

There is this word – 感慨 (gan kai), oh. I guess I could call it wonder.

So to the woman who has lived through this wonder/full year , may your next year be full of the same.

Posted by:jasmine

Jasmine is an editor, poet, and community arts organizer. She comes to poetry by way of Chinese music. This blog is a mapping of ways.

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