Three months ago today I was celebrating the end of my college career and gearing up for the craziest week of my life, thus far. In the next seven days I would graduate, watch two of my friends get married, attend two awesome going away parties, and drive one thousand miles to start a new job in Crockett, Texas.
The time in between was spent assistant directing a play, organizing a week of art camp, and driving a country western band around town. I got to see the Alamo and a herd of buffalo. I learned about the intricacies of breeding Golden Retrievers. I also learned to co exist with a house full of scorpions. That one was a lie. I hate them. With every fiber of my being. I hung out with cowboys and artists. I got to see musicians perform in a historical venue, that, according to the walls, has hosted every country western, blues, and jazz musician to wander through East Texas.
My time at Piney Woods has been incredibly fulfilling. I feel very fortunate for the community I had on hand while living here. Arguably, It proved to be the most important part of my success. Starting over fresh out of college is hard, starting out with a degree in the arts is hard, doing both those things during a recession is incredibly difficult. It takes a lot of perseverance. An ability to budget and make smart decisions with money. Most of all though it takes a mountain of support.
I consider myself fortunate, I have a network of friends and family who extend their support even when I am a thousand miles away, and a supportive community that received me when I landed in Texas. The arts can be difficult to traverse. My experience at Piney Woods taught me an important lesson though. It’s not only your own success that matters, lifting others up is in many ways more rewarding. I suppose it is something that has rung true through out my experience in the arts. Though, it only became clear when I was truly on my own.
I could have come out here and been totally alone, but this community rallied around me because I was young, because I was starting out, and because they had all been there before. Everyone finds success in their own way, but finding a community that supports you and inspires you should be a staple of that process. Seek out people who push you to succeed and avoid influences that will steer you away from your goals. That community can help you decide when a sacrifice is worth it, or remind you when it is most important to believe in yourself.
An arts community is diverse. It is not an exclusive club. In Crockett I have met teachers, surgeons, and engineers who directly involve themselves in the betterment of their arts community. In larger areas it can be easy to take the arts for granted, in Crockett the availability of arts entertainment and education is so rare that the community that supports it works tirelessly to ensure its continuance. Without their support the music will fade, the lights will go out, and a void would be left in its place.
I have had to defend the role of the arts on more than one occasion, but a defense that I have missed in the past is the importance of this community. Even the most passive participant reaps the benefits. The arts; music, theater, visual, all create places we can come together to share ideas or even just to communicate with another person on a shared interest. How many conversations start with the faithful standby “What music do you like?”
Moving away was difficult. The community that I found made it worth while. This new environment and community gave me a perspective that would have been difficult to find in Central Illinois. Tomorrow I leave to start over, all over again. I want to expand upon my experiences in East Texas and head further down the path toward a strong career and a rewarding life.