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En Route #21

The Triumph of Julius Caesar, Paolo Uccello

Valentine’s Day

A very famous TV show once said, “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” While in the show, the character is commenting on the nature of political power, in reality it is a truth universally acknowledged that chaos is actually a college student. Sleep deprived, stressed, and seasonally smelly, college students perpetually walk a fine line between barely contained order and complete and utter chaos. In today’s hyper connected world, chaos can easily be written off as a wholly bad thing. But more and more I’m finding that chaos can also be eye-opening and sometimes even helpful. From chaos we have the opportunity for rapid and total change. As someone who has yet to celebrate a Valentine’s Day whilst romantically attached, I can only hope it is half as chaotic as how I spent my Valentine’s day.

It began, as most Tuesdays do, with me banging my head against a wall in Thesis class. What could be considered a sport I feel I’ve elevated to an art form through sheer commitment to my craft. As a writer as well as an artist it should be no surprise that my thinking tends to be both visual and verbal. I like operating within an outline and set of rules, but for this project I was encouraged to think outside my linear process and introduce a 3rd dimension. Two weeks later and I had made two A3 sized mind maps and scribbled on an unhealthy amount of post-it notes, before I finally felt like I’d struck upon something that could work. After everyone had settled in and swapped life updates, we got to our weekly show-and-tell.

Now sometimes, helping your peers is just a matter of politely suggesting they tweak a few elements, and other times it’s an hour-long arm wrestle in the mud. This class began with the latter. We emerged from it, sweaty and dehydrated, but mostly satisfied. We then continued to run down other students’ work and hit around many fun tangents I have no trouble admitting to a lead role in. One phone call sent us hurling to another level of distraction as a classmate was in the process of being gifted a Valentine’s surprise, but needed to tell the delivery person where to drop it off. Electing our designated French speaker, half the class gathered in the corner to arrange the drop off while I was left with 20 minutes to somehow convey to my professor that I was in creative purgatory.

Endless brooding over potential project solutions had left me gasping for relief. I needed a life raft or I was going to risk surrender. I had stayed in this uncomfortable space for two plus weeks, and now I needed to get the hell out. Everything came to a boil as multiple calls were made in increasingly louder French, class was ending, and I still had no Senior Thesis project. I couldn’t leave class without a solution. I checked my watch. I had the first meeting for the Terra Foundation (yay) soon and a meeting for Cook Club (follow us @pcacooks) right after. With one eye on the clock and both holding back semi-hysterical tears, my professor and I continued to hammer away at potential solutions until AHA! We struck gold. 3D became tangible 2D as the idea solidified in the space of 30 seconds.

Moments later and two floors down, I was furiously writing notes for research topics and promising to send a volley of emails before the week was out. From there I hiked back up to the student life office and managed to speak in complete sentences before rushing home for lunch. After downing a ham and cheese sandwich from Franprix (oh the glamor of Parisian life), I made a quick phone call home before high tailing it back to school. Still in the karmic dog-house from this morning’s self-imposed lateness, I was struck with a freak metro delay and was once again running late to class. At this point, I don’t think I’d taken a breath since the day before. After managing to make it to class, I poured myself into a chair and willed my head to stop spinning. Class turned out to be just what I needed to reduce my heartrate from a sprint to more of a light jog and for the first time all day, I was actually ahead of the curb with my project. Maybe it was our lovely professor or company of friends, but that Tuesday evening there was nowhere else I’d rather have been than making prints to the background music of the Open Mic event happening in the Gallery.

Ice Ice Baby was being delivered to warm applause while we worked in pleasant collaboration to get our prints done. Chaos was merely our drink of choice as we enjoyed the descent into mayhem against a slightly sporadic soundtrack of 90s hits. Riding the metro home with a friend that night was a joyful note to end on, and whereas 8pm for students is just the start of the day, I barely managed to take off my shoes before falling into bed. Tired, but glowing. Thinking back, I’ve never felt so productive, panicked, or creatively fulfilled in the span of 24-hours. I often espouse the virtues of being organized as the only way to survive a hectic schedule, but after this Valentine’s day I’m coming around to the idea of chaos as a tool for progress. If you’ll take my 2 cents, the next time you feel your carefully laid plans spiraling out of your control, try to find the fun. Sometimes a little chaos is good for the complexion.

Stay sane!

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