Think about the great works of art throughout history, the most famous symphonies, the classics in literature or iconic poetry. What do they all have in common? They are almost always conceived in adversity, struggle, or outright suffering. They are born at Life’s Crossroads, those moments, or periods in life when the status quo is disrupted, the comfort zones are challenged or the heart is shattered into a million pieces.
Great art is hardly ever conceived of by people who are comfortable, satisfied, or coasting with ease along the long, flat highway of life. On the contrary, true art usually emerges when it is not comfortable, when the path is not clear, when life is anything but flowing along easily. Diamonds, after all are formed through intense pressure. Pearls are created only within the rough seas. And great art is born out of a need or desire to express oneself. The harsh elements that surround each of these holds the potential for bringing beauty into the world, not in spite of the struggle, but because of it. The same is true within life.
Think about the most pivotal moments in your life, the periods of time when everything changed for you. I’d be willing to guess that they weren’t times of boredom, apathy or status quo when everything was fine. I suspect your defining moments came when a boyfriend broke up with you, your wife divorced you, you were fired from a job, your business collapsed, a loved one died, the children left home, you had an accident, you suffered from chronic pain or the way you were living no longer brought you a feeling of purpose or meaning within your life. These unpleasant circumstances, difficult struggles, or devastating situations are exactly the moments when something magical is waiting to be born. The other side of death (the death of a job, person or identity) always brings with it new opportunities, new beginnings and new life. It is simply the way the universe works.
The challenge, however, is that we don’t tend to think of these moments as opportunities, certainly not opportunities to create. On the contrary, we are often led to believe that they are situations to avoid, periods of time to grin and bear, or moments to simply endure. All we can do is put our heads down, forge ahead and put it in our rearview mirror so that we can get on with our life. What if the great artists throughout history lived this way? Think of all of the beauty born out of their struggles that we would be missing. Without their broken hearts, we would have been deprived of so much amazing art. Equally, living this way leaves us powerless. Thinking this way leaves us with nothing to do, nothing to learn, and nothing to become other than survivors of our pain. Although surviving is a start, surviving is not why we are here. We are here to thrive. We are here to create and that, my friends, is our art.
This is why Life’s Crossroads are so important. No, you shouldn’t go looking for them. Frankly, you don’t have to. They come calling, sooner or later, whether you want them or not. And when they do you only have one choice to make: to decide whether they are to be meaningful or meaningless. If they are meaningless then there is nothing you can do, nothing to be learned, nowhere to go other than wherever the winds of circumstance carry you. However, if they are meaningful—and they can always be made meaningful—then you have to choose to face them, choose to enter them, choose to discover whatever you can from them.
Instead of sitting there lost, confused or hopeless, pick up a paintbrush, some charcoal, or just an old fashioned Crayon and draw. Express yourself on canvas, paper or the wall (no really, you are grown ups, it’s OK, preferably an interior wall to start).
You don’t want to draw? Then write. Write out your feelings. Put them down in a journal, start a Google Doc or angrily pour them onto paper and burn it if. Stir it up. Get it out there. Just write.
You don’t like writing? Then dance. You’re not comfortable dancing? Then sing. You can’t carry a tune? Then bake. You can’t bake? Then....You get the point. To be an artist doesn’t necessarily mean you have talent. It means you have the courage to put yourself out there and express your emotions through some type of medium.
You are an artist. Life’s Crossroads is your art class. Your life is your canvas. So get out there my friends. Unleash your spirit and transform your broken heart into a work of art!