|When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be a chef. The kitchen was, and still is, my happy place. It is where colors, aromas, textures, and often music come together to make something. While I can't promise that it is always delicious, something is always made; messes, meals, and memories included. The key to making anything in the kitchen? Mixing. You can mix ingredients together to make a cake… something I don't do since I am a notoriously lousy baker. Mix up some butter and garlic in a pan and you have fooled all your guests into thinking you're making something amazing already, even though you do not know what you are making yet. Or maybe you like to mix your cooking with music and break out into an impromptu dance party.|
Pro Tip: don't forget about your food and set it on fire.
It's funny that I often find myself doing my best thinking in the kitchen. My most recent conclusion is that life is a lot like being in the kitchen. If you ask my mom, she would say that I am a messy cook; however, I would say that my creativity can't be confined to the stove or cutting board and must fly across the kitchen. Similar to my cooking style, life is full of messes. Some of us may try to live in black and white, but the world is much more than that. It is black and white and grey and every color imaginable. Life is messy, and life is art.
How do we live and lead in this unavoidably messy world? We have to leverage who we are and own our stories. Think about everything that has made you, you. Memories, interests, hobbies, relationships, experiences, hopes, and dreams. They all come together to make you. But sometimes, it is hard to balance every part of ourselves and our stories. We end up showing only parts of ourselves when that is far from who we truly are. Imagine if you tried to bake a cake, but instead of mixing it into a smooth batter, you just dumped the ingredients into a pan and threw it into the oven. Bits of the egg would cook, flour would burn, and oil would coat other ingredients in an oily mess. Which one are you going to want after it is baked? My guess is that you are going to enjoy the actual cake, not the half-baked mess. For someone who hates baking, I use a lot of baking analogies in my writing. Similarly, there are not just parts of us. There is only one us, one Luc, one you. We have to integrate all aspects of ourselves and our lives. We have to mix it up.
I'm going to blame this in part on my State Officer mentor, Claire Baney, but I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. I recently listened to an episode of her podcast Dare to Lead, where she talked to Justina Blakeney. This designer is known for her bold combinations of color, plants, texture, and patterns. You need to go look at her work at https://www.jungalow.com to fully capture what I mean when I say each design is marked by its own uniqueness. Justina commented that since her life was "a convergence of so many different things," like culture, religion, ethnicity, and so on, she has always been familiar with amalgamations and mixes. Justina writes in her book Jungalow:
"In the wild, plants send pollen grains to ride the water or wind or develop flowers with the colors, fragrances, or nectar necessary to attract pollinators, all in order to send their genes far afield to mix with one another. All sexually reproducing species go to great lands to mix their genes as a way to survive shifting environmental conditions. Over time, new species evolve, and the result is the vast array of living organisms we encounter on our planet. We humans are part of this story, of course, and there is a deep sense that our very existence as individuals and as a species is the result of putting a very high value on genetic mixture and diversity. Mixing is magic."
If nature goes to such lengths to mix it up, why shouldn’t we? Justina is writing here through the lens of design, but this speaks to so much more than just design. In her work, you see combinations of colors, patterns, textures all coming together to make something unique. You see designs that stand out and are bright and creative, and uniquely memorable. Her designs are bold and vibrant. Why? Justina tells us that the spaces we create reflect our lives and our stories. Her designs are reflections of her life and story. Similarly, Brene Brown writes, "Who we are is how we lead." While our mediums may vary, we are all works of art, and we are all artists. Crafting and creating, and bringing into this world reflecting who we are through our words, actions, and existence.
Think about yourself now. What stories are you bringing into this world? Is your work reflecting who you are? How? Are you showing your whole self, or are you trying to only show parts of yourself? If your life and your story were art, what would it be? What medium? What colors? What would it look like? Why?
We are all a mix. The stories, experiences, memories we hold conflate to make us. To navigate this messy world, we must learn to embrace our stories. I'll leave you with this quote from Shonda Rhimes. "They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big." Don't just stick to the black and white. You are so much more than that, so don't hide it; own it. Find your mix, your story, and live in the messy.
Mixing it up,
This is just scratching the surface of the idea of mixing and how to leverage our stories. I would highly encourage… no; I'm telling you that you need to listen to Brene Brown's Dare to Lead podcast. Here's the link for you to go check out the episode I referenced in this blog: