In 2016 I made the decision to go to graduate school to get my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree and begin pursuing art more seriously in my life. I wanted to grow as an artist conceptually and I knew that I needed the guidance of graduate school to do that.
I attended a low-residency MFA program because--with the cost of school and little to no subsidized federal assistance available--I needed to keep my job in order to feed myself. So, instead of the much faster 2-year program, I knew this was going to be a long-haul, 4-year process, but I was excited about the opportunity to see my work grow and change over a longer period of time. 2 years always seemed too short to me, anyway!
Fast forward 4 years: I thought 2020 was going to be my year. I was going to show my thesis exhibition that I had been planning since 2018 and graduate with the support of my friends and my family by my side. The work I planned for my thesis was some of the most ambitious projects I would have developed, so being able to document it for future applications was critical.
2020 had other plans. All thesis exhibitions were canceled, the campus was closed, and instead of celebrating my 4-year journey with my fellow classmates, friends, and family everything ended on a Zoom call in my basement where me and 7 other people broke into tears together while trying to chair-dance to "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang.
I felt guilty for crying. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their lives because of the failure of our government to stop the virus. Millions were losing their jobs because the virus had shut down businesses indefinitely. Aside from that, our country was finally confronting the social injustice that has been rampant in this country for decades, but it took the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to get there. And there I was crying about not being able to have an art show.
I spoke to others about my grief and one person told me, ‘Pain is pain...everyone is allowed to feel it and that emotion is valid because they are feeling it at that moment.” That helped put things into perspective and summarizes what 2020 was to most people: pain. On some level everyone felt it, whether due to the social isolation of stay-at-home orders, whether they were struggling to make ends meet, or their dreams that were years in the making were up-ended.
Going forward, I hope that as a country, as a world, we can each acknowledge that pain we all experienced and find ways to comfort and support each other more.