Peeling off layers with a cheese-grater

“You’ve really softened since last year.”

After an evening of intense philosophical discussions about nomadism, living an adventurous life, and stepping out into the unknown, Dipika and I were saying our goodbyes in a hotel parking lot.  She was leaving for Viet Nam in just a few short days, and although we knew we would see each other again we couldn’t say when.

In 2011 — From left to right: me, Shana Garr, Kiki Farish, and Dipika Kohli

Dipika and I have known each other tangentially for several years because we were both integrated into the diverse-yet-everyboy-knows-everybody Durham arts community.  It was only when we connected over coffee about the parallels our lives had taken did our friendship truly blossom.  Dipika knows the core of me, and therefore I take to heart her comments and recommendations.

So when she told me that I had “softened,” I chuckled — but I couldn’t simply brush off her comment as one about a superficial change in my appearance (uncommonly long blonde hair and a new affinity for flowing wrap dresses).

Willard and I getting ready to head back from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg

In 2013 — Willard and I getting ready to head back from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg

It is true that I have changed in a mere three months.  Plotting (and weathering) this intense project has forced my rigidly-organized-never-stop-whirling-constantly-anxious-Type-A personality to metamorphose into a what-will-be-will-be attitude.

Assimilating to a new culture and falling in love with a new community every month takes a cheese-grater to one’s defenses.   The endless waves of surprise, anxiety, terror, love, depression, joy, tenderness, and acceptance have sloughed off every ingrained reaction and left behind a new human.  Each place has taught me more about the world (and about myself) and changed me so wholly that I barely recognize the person writing blog posts before the journeying began.

The newly-formed “softness” that Dipika noticed is not weakness nor timidness.  It is vulnerability.  With each new experience, this project forces me to connect others more deeply and rapidly than I had ever thought possible.

If we open ourselves to the breadth and depth of experiences that the world can offer, we cannot help but to be changed.  

And guess what?  You can begin opening yourselves right from home by connecting to artists across the globe.  Learn more about the artist-activists interviewed on the blog, and connect with many many more artists around the world on the 13/13/13 Facebook page.  Leave a comment with your own story or email me to collaborate on a blog post about how you are changing your community through your creativity. 

And just out of curiosity, can you see a transformation in these selected blog posts?

And while you’re in a clicking mood, check out Dipika’s current project Orangutan Swing and her memoir trilogy “Kismuth”!

(Featured Image  “face first” by Catherine J Howard


3 responses to “Peeling off layers with a cheese-grater

  1. Pingback: A Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting It DONE! | 13/13/13 Sketchbook Project·

  2. Catherine, thanks for sharing this! It’s so interesting to read about our lives on people’s blogs; i feel vaguely famous 🙂

    Seriously now: I read through your ‘books and I could totally see your transformation! It was breathtaking really to travel with you through them and realize the growth that’s taking place in you. Also to realize what an important journey you are on, and the work you are doing for all of us through it.

    In short, I “get it,” now.

    Can’t wait to see more of this!

    • You and Dipika both make such an impact on the people around you and should be appreciated for that! You both have vision and tenacity, and those are world-changing traits.
      Thank you so much for diving into all the sketchbooks. The process is changing me continually, and it is my hope that the whole endeavor will inspire at least one other person to take a leap of faith and share their creative passion to change their communities on a massive scale – just like you and Dipika 🙂

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