When I was in High School, my mom, my brother and I lived in a two bedroom condo. My mom gave each of us a bedroom and slept on the sofa. Yes, you read that right. My mom didn’t have a bedroom for my entire teen years.
For years, I would fantasize that one day, I’d design a room just for her that was beautiful and perfectly decorated in her style.
When my son was born, I invited my mom to take the spare bedroom since she was over every day with Kayden anyway. She moved in when he was three months old and she’s been here ever since. I still had that fantasy… one day… when I had some spare money and I was able to figure out how to do more than paint, I would make her room beautiful. Her room was full of hand-me-down furniture, the walls were never a color she chose. No artwork on the walls, no decor or design. Just a plain room with a bed and a desk.
A few months ago, my mom took Kayden to Los Angeles to visit her mother for the last week of Summer. Raffi and I stayed behind and we spent the week making over her room. We painted… and then painted again when the first color was awful. We got new bedding, hung photos to create a family wall, and switched out the doorknobs from gold to black. Raffi crafted a built in desk, customized a chest of drawers from Ikea and hung curtains. I lined the drawers with a gorgeous floral contact paper, picked out frames and small details to make the room special and finally hung a piece of art she has had since I was young but never had it up on a wall.
Finally, after decades, my dream of creating a beautiful room for my mom was finished.
But what the heck took me so long??
Well, it was because up until then, I didn’t have anyone to help me actually make it come to life. I could dream up a built in desk, sure, but actually having it made was a whole other game.
Monday night of that week, Raffi and I laid on the carpet in the empty bedroom, staring up at the walls we had painted an Easter Egg blue. It looked terrible. We talked about choosing a different color and repainting the next day. I told him all my dreams for the room. The family wall. “We could go to Goodwill and get a mix of old looking frames and then build up the family wall above the desk.” I told him my hopes for the dresser. “I saw on Pinterest, there’s a tutorial on adding a distressed stain and then framing each drawer so it looks custom. I could also pick out a floral contact paper to line the drawers and put this floral box on top so she can have extra storage.” I told him my dreams for the artwork. “She’s had that painting since I was thirteen and I’ve never seen it hung. It just sits in the closet. Maybe we can find a place for it in here… behind the door maybe so it can be the artwork she sees most during the times she’s alone in here.”
After I basically word vomited a mile long list, Raffi said, “I wish I could come up with ideas like you.”
Because here’s something about our relationship: I dream, and he makes my dreams real. He’s a total builder. While I was spouting off how I wanted the desk to look, he was planning measurements and wood beam supports in his head. He was engineering a way for a floating desk to be secure and look good at the same time. He was outlining different shapes that would make the most sense against that particular corner.
In response, I told him that I had been dreaming about this room since I was thirteen… and it would have continued being just a dream without him. He made it real… and that was everything. If we were both only dreamers, literally nothing would get done. We were a team and together, we could do huge, amazing things. The conversation made me think of other areas… could you imagine if you teamed up with your friends to launch a business and everyone was great at product development only? No one was good at Social Media, branding, marketing, accounting, administration? It would be the worst! Your business would be dead in the water.
Have you ever found yourself in that situation? Wishing you had someone else’s gifts while ignoring the ones you do have? I know I’ve been there. But working together, making over my mom’s room, made me realize how necessary it is to embrace and use the gifts you were given. Let yourself slide into that natural groove where you brain just turns on. That’s the way to go. Realizing, accepting and playing to my strengths is always where I do my best work. The times where I force myself to be like someone else is always where I produce my worst work. When I look at Instagram grids like CreativeKipi or Sophlog and think, “Dangit, why can’t I be like them?!” Then I go create a bunch of colorful, abstract images through an eye that isn’t my own to create forced images that are fooling no one. Then I feel down on myself because I couldn’t be something else. That’s the worst.
But letting my eye lead the way? Using shapes and colors in my images that feel right to me and look good to my own creative brain? That’s when I’m proud of the work I create.
Raffi is no different. Ask him to design a desk and he comes up with a functional slab of wood with four legs that he hates. But tell him a plan? Tell him you want this feature and that function and this color with that shaped trim and these knobs? Girl, that’s when he does incredible work. That’s when he draws perfectly calculated plans up on graph paper and meticulously builds the most beautiful desk ever to have existed. He shines SO bright when he plays to his strengths. It’s when he twists himself out of who he is that he’s dissatisfied with his work.
Is it the same for you?
For years, the Queens of the social media world would tell me, “Use that special gift that only you have.” I thought they were patronizing me. Sitting atop their thrones, patting my little head and thinking, “Sure, babe, you can do it … whatever.” But now I think they’re right. We all need to learn what our gifts are and then embrace them and use them. Because that’s where we are all going to do our best work and the world absolutely, 100% DOES need that; our best work.
For part II, click here!!
|Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris|
Thanks to Carolyn V Via Unsplash for the heart photo!
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.