Every relationship, every experience, every phase of life shapes us. The sum total makes up who we are, becomes part of our story.
Some experiences are more significant than others, of course. Some have a “before” and an “after” you can pinpoint as a moment of transformation. Some are more gradual, affecting a subtle change you don’t notice until weeks, months, years later.
Living in Italy was a before/after time for me, for sure. After I returned, everything referenced back to it. I had changed dramatically and emerged shiny and new. It was not just the travel and experience of living and working in another country, but becoming an artist too. Rediscovering and reconnecting with that essential part of myself.
The time and experiences since moving back home to Oregon have brought more subtle transformation. It’s not the same type of before/after. Italy was like a flash flood, radically altering the scenery. The last five years in Oregon have been a gradual reshaping, like a river over time alters the landscape. Bit by bit I continue to learn, grow and transform… And hardly notice it.
Until recently, that is. Recently there have been a few signs I’m leaving my Italy experience behind…
I’m rewriting my artist statement. It references the change in my art, moving from Milan, Italy to Corvallis, Oregon. For urban scenes to forest elements. But that was five years ago now, and the change isn’t happening anymore–it’s happened. I need to talk about what’s relevant to my work now.
I took my eCourses down off of my site. A Sense of Place and the Find Your Eye series were all very timely, coming from my photographic experience and artistic growth while living in Italy, but it has become hard to promote them when the art they teach isn’t even close to what I create now.
And with these small steps and signs I realize that my experience in Italy has been folded in to the mix. It’s been integrated into what makes me Kat. It’s no longer this huge thing, so momentous that everything has to reference back to it. It’s part of the greater whole.
That’s a good thing. It’s not that I have forgotten my Italy experience or I don’t want have the big before/after moments in the future, it’s that I want to continue to learn and grow all the time. I want to continue to transform while living in my little town, in my regular, everyday life. And I can.
I know I can, because here I am, five years post-Italy, creating and teaching a different type of art and living a life based on choices which are right for me today. Still an artist — thank you time in Italy, for showing me that — but an evolving one.
So maybe that’s my final Lesson from Abroad: We keep changing and growing, no matter where we are. If you had told me five years ago where I would be today, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Where will I be five years from now? Who knows. I certainly don’t.
All I do know is that I will be different. My art will be different. My life will be different. It will be interesting to see how everything turns out.