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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Begin Again

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Why your health, spirtuality, and overall outlook in life could be your best ally in moving forward and creating art.

Life begins at 40

I just turned 40 and I feel great though not any different from the day before. You hear cliches like age is only a number, life begins at 40, age does not matter and so on. Physically I may not look much different from when I was 20, thanks to my Asian genes perhaps, but I have grown a lot over the 4 decades.

Life begins after cancer

A major turning point in my life was the night I woke up in my hospital bed disoriented and parched while a young German doctor seated by my bedside told me that the operation went well and that I would be alright. Frankly, this good news and a glass of water were enough to let me get through that night. From then on, after being diagnosed of cancer of the uterus and undergoing an operation that ultimately saved my life though would not allow me to bring in new life, I had a new mission. It all happened gradually but I made sure I took even more care of myself.

I went back to doing yoga and was determined to accomplish my Sirsasana (headstand), Bakasana (crow pose) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) as best as I could. More importantly than any of these poses, I just wanted to move and be in touch with my core. I wanted to understand what I am made of and capable of achieving through constant practice. I understood how my body reacted to physical changes, to food, to weather, or to stress. I lost 15 kgs in four months because I took that extra step to speak to a professional about proper nutrition. I have learned that the quantity is equally important as the quality of the fuel we fill up our bodies in order to function properly. I practiced mindfulness as well as meditation in every single activity I did and found peace.

Sure there were moments of unhappiness and insecurity as a wife unable to bear my husband’s child but you overcome it because you eventually realize that motherhood does not define you as a person nor as a woman. It is what you do as a capable human being. As a creative person you were born to make things. If you stop creating then you would just become a nuisance to society. So I decided to create again.

I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and… if they’re not checked, then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my being a woman or my worth and my value as a woman because I haven’t birthed a child. I’ve birthed a lot of things, and I feel like I’ve mothered many things. And I don’t feel like it’s fair to put that pressure on people. - Jennifer Aniston

Gong fu cha for guests at home.

Constant Learning and Practice

In order to make art again, I learned how to create again. Not in a university setting but rather in the comfort of my own home. I just started to make anything: sewing, crafting, beading, painting, baking and learning about tea and how to properly make it in a hundred ways. I binge-watched crash course history lessons, motivational speeches, tea ceremonies, travel or just about anything, as you would on YouTube. And I showed up in gallery shows, social media and in every social gathering shamelessly promoting my art. Declaring that I am an artist became much easier and more comfortable each time.

Gilding: working on a painting for my first group exhibition

Signing up on online courses was even more revelatory. I listened to talks by artists and creative people and I learned how to become an artist today. I devoured every bit of information and carried on making art whether the product is a hit or miss. As long as I am creating that is enough to keep me moving forward.

Recently I have just concluded an online course that was all about making arts and crafts, Make Art That Sells Lilla's Mystery Box, that made you examine your mind and soul's well being. It made me realize that all the handicraft and culinary work that I've been doing were actually essential to feeding my mind and soul. All the while I thought I was just passing time by making anything. Since restarting my creative path four years ago, I have rekindled my passion, improved my artistic skills, learned more about other cultures and more crafty work, likewise expanded my visual vocabulary but more importantly, found happiness.

The results of my constant learning and practice were gradual but rewarding.

Teishu for the day: making tea for students at the Japanese School in Johannesburg

To move is the only way to let go

After graduating in the university with honors, I laid on the floor in our living room and stared beyond the ceiling up to my blank future. What's next? I thought. I then grabbed the Black Book of the advertising industry in the Philppines and just cold texted a lot of creative directors and film directors on the list. I knew I would sound shameless and unprofessional but I remembered to be polite with a hint of naive determination. A few of them responded and agreed to meet with me with one exception who hired me on the spot as a Personal Assistant in his movie without pay. That was the next step that led me to where I am now. This memory would always remind me of how bold I can be.

The move to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016 could not have come at a better timing. My husband and I needed change. In order to heal I needed to move away from all that has to do with raising a family within our circle. He needed a change in his career direction. We moved and now we are moving again to another country.

Four years in this beautiful place is enough to heal my brokenness. I have met good people coming from different colorful cultures who have taught me so much about being an adult. In return I have shared them my art and they have always been encouraging. It is a great feeling to know that my friends were rooting for me. More importantly, I am grateful for my life in South Africa. I have accomplished what I have intended to do and even more. We have circled the country and even went up to Botswana and had an entirely different experience there (basic outdoor accommodations inside unfenced game parks with lions marking their territories around our campsite in the middle of the night!). My experience here has influenced my art in many ways. I will depart the country with a full and contented heart. It is time to move forward and add another layer of cultural experience in my life resume.

A global table: some of the beautiful people I met in Johannesburg.

Like comets

People are like comets. We only pass by another person’s life. Some of us linger longer while some of us just say “hello” or not at all. So it is up to us to make our light shine bright or remain obscure in the dark of night.

I have moved away many times and have met many interesting people—some of them left a big impression, some I hardly even remember and a few that I will never see again. I would like to think of myself as a visitor in one’s life and they as well in mine.

Commence | Watercolor and digital collage | 2020


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