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Where do we go from here?

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Last week, Lily and I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of the main exhibitions was “Where do we go from here?“, a meditation on the role of art galleries in shaping our culture. More specifically, it was their response to the events of 2020, especially the Black Lives Matter movement:

“This exhibition both acknowledges the under representation of African diasporic artists in our exhibitions, which have historically privileged European art traditions, and reimagines how the next 90 years of programming can better represent Canada’s art landscape
Titling the exhibition with the question, ‘Where do we go from here?,’ is intended to serve as an acknowledgement of its amorphous, open-ended nature.”

The VAG seemed to be saying, “it’s clear this year changed how we see things. We don’t know exactly what we should do, but we know we should start, so here is a showcase of the perspectives we’ve too often ignored.”.

The exhibit was a little disjointed, but overall very rewarding. I liked seeing the different cultural lenses and I appreciated the reflective, unassuming intent behind it. Lily and I had a nice conversation about it and then went home. I didn’t plan to think much more about it.

But since then, I’ve had the exhibition’s concept stuck in my head like a good refrain.

Where do we go from here?

It captures the cultural moment, but it also captures my own moment.

Where do we go from here?

Vancouver Art Gallery, Where do we go from here? Exhibit

The exhibition’s very existence was a reminder for me that I haven’t thought as much about social justice in the last few months as I did in the summer.

I certainly have a generally heightened sense of injustice and awareness compared to pre-May 2020. But the movement is no longer in the world’s spotlight like it was before, and I’m guilty of letting it slip from my lens as well.

In being reminded of the movement’s roots, I’m also reminded of my own sense of directionlessness about it. What actions can I take further the movement that feel right to me? How can I reconcile that I engage with these issues yet am unwilling to commit myself to improving them?

Where do we go from here?

Vancouver Art Gallery, Where do we go from here? Exhibit

Trump’s anarchic exit from office heightened my sense of directionlessness. He was the Big Bad that politics has orbited around for 4 years. It was clear to me that if he was removed from power, the world would be better off.

Now that he is removed, and replaced with a president who’s most popular policy is Not Being Trump, what should I care about? What politics matter most?

I’ve only had two American presidents in my adult life, Obama and Trump. Obama’s very identity felt like a success, and Trump’s a threat. What should I ask of an American president whose identity is largely irrelevant? What do my post-Trump politics look like?

Where do we go from here?

Vancouver Art Gallery, Where do we go from here? Exhibit

We have a vaccine for COVID, but we don’t. People are following restrictions, but they’re not. We’ve settled into “new normal”, but we haven’t.

As we enter late-stage pandemic, I find myself too exhausted to hope for a vaccine timeline, too exhausted to care about what rules people follow, and too exhausted to entertain what I want from a post-COVID world.

I’ve recently given up on my plan (dream?) to have an epic overseas 30th birthday this July, and I haven’t planned anything in its stead. I know, poor me, but giving it up felt like letting go of the last sense of direction in what my future holds. I have no plans for this year, or the year after that, or the year after that.

Where do we go from here?

Vancouver Art Gallery, Where do we go from here? Exhibit

In 2014, before starting The Good Stuff, I shared a goal with Tonner: make this a million-dollar business. It felt both humble and ambitious. Obviously, businesses grow to be much bigger than a million dollars, but at the time, it also felt like a miraculous achievement.

TGS was not a million-dollar business. But Flywheel is about be. We’re about to pass $1m in all-time revenue, and pass the monthly equivalent of $1m per year, so I’ll be able to reasonably say I achieved that.

Then what?

I am deeply satisfied with the work I do each day. I am proud of the team I’ve cultivated. But I’ve basically accomplished the medium-term goal that I set out to accomplish. I’ll develop new goals, but I don’t have them yet, and it doesn’t feel right to say what I think others say: “my new goal is the old goal, but more”.

I can already feel the slip of my focus from not having goals. I’m getting excited about things like establishing a mini-private equity fund, whereas last year, my business brain really only got excited about Flywheel.

Is that okay?

Where do we go from here?

Vancouver Art Gallery, Where do we go from here? Exhibit

Lily finished what we’re now calling ‘active treatment’ (chemo + surgery) in November. Now, she’s moving on to a preventative round of not-that-bad-but-still-bad drugs for 6 months.

So we had 6 months of a normal relationship, 6 months of active cancer treatment, and now, 6 months of… ‘transition’. And then the transition from the transition, which isn’t currently timebound.

I knew how to be in a normal relationship and I figured out how to be in an ‘active treatment’ relationship. I don’t yet know how to be in a ‘transition’ relationship.

Lily and I are as strong as ever, but I’m not. I’ve found myself reacting to things in ways that I didn’t expect and expecting things of us that I don’t need. I don’t really know how to be in this phase. Or should I think of it as a phase at all?

The VAG’s answer to their personal reckoning was to try to apply a new perspective (more BIPOC artists) to what they’ve always done (curating and exhibiting art). They also had the wisdom to acknowledge that they didn’t have all the answers yet.

For now, that’s as good a direction as I’ve got. The last 9 months have probably changed me, but I don’t know how yet. I’m going to keep what doing what I’ve always done (try to be a good person, leader, and partner) and aim to apply some new perspective.

I don’t have a vision for that perspective any more than the VAG has a vision for a diverse gallery. But they know good art when they see it, and I know things that feel right when I feel them. So I’m going to keep cultivating that perspective and doing whatever I can to answer my own questions. Maybe, like art, it’ll start to make sense if I look at it long enough.

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