Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2017

The following post is by Natalie, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts:

This MAEA experience aligned at the same time with a lot of personal changes in my life that I never expected (with the passing of my grandfather, the separation of my parents, and the realization that I might not know what I want to do after I graduate this spring). But this semester has also been one of my favorites (with my family closer than ever, having met some of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and the feeling of satisfaction with all of my interactions). And some credit does go to this class for keeping me sane these last few months. Like how everything in my life is so complicated, this class has been a very rewarding and challenging force in my life. An experience that has left a strong impression on me thanks to Anne, Elaine, and the MAEA community members. 

The first session with the club members we sang songs. And boy were they sassy. They thought the songs the singing instructor choose were too old. “They were oldies when I was a kid” was even exclaimed. Sometimes they were more energetic than the young adults. And immediately after the first day they made all of us feel at ease and refreshed. On the short bus ride back to school we were talking about how our moods were completely different than that morning. The MAEA members are so welcoming and loving. How often are you given a hug and told you are loved after every interaction? With the MAEA members, it’s all the time. They even call us their kids. I look forward to going to the site every week because I knew all of the members would lift my mood and make me laugh. Even before working one-on-one with a MAEA partner, I felt comfortable with all of the members (especially after our second session when we danced together to Motown). This was very refreshing because I had been surrounded by uncordial people my age for too long. I’m very thankful that I found smiles and consideration every time I went to the site. Even though they had their own worries and obstacles, they never failed to enjoy themselves while we were there. 

At the same time with all of these emotions, I was confronted with challenges that made me reconsider my approach to making (art and relationships). Before taking this class, I considered myself a go with the flow kind of person. But what I didn’t see was the excessive planning behind all that composure. With every session I always prepared for at least 5 different projects and ideas but when I started working with any of the MAEA members nothing I had anticipated happened. One time I brought in a sketchbook, canvas, watercolor crayons, printmaking materials and more. Can you guess what me and my MAEA partner did? None of that. But because I threw away all of my plans we had fun learning a material that neither of us had used. I don’t need to make my MAEA partner feel my stress, or anyone for that matter. Every session with my MAEA partner or any of the members were unique interactions and experiences that I could never have anticipated but value greatly. In some cases, people need more structure. In my case, I needed a dose of calmness. I needed to feel like not everything depended on me. You might be wondering why I say this was a calming experience when I just said my challenge was being calm? It’s complicated. Nothing was consistent about my sessions, so I had to be very flexible, so that we could have fun. But letting go of the structure I made for myself was calming.

 I know this wasn’t exactly a humorous anecdote. Perhaps this was a bit too serious at times. It’s just that when my life has been at its most chaotic, I learned a lot about myself and felt loved by very kind strangers. And that was the only thing I could imagine reflecting genuinely on for this blog post.

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