Leaving on some jet planes - en-route for Australia! Follow along on my journey both via my blog or on social media @amyleepottery - #potterytourist
Wow! I’m on a plane! I have flown many times before, but never to Oz. I know this land as both a land of adventurous make believe from movies and TV filled with fanciful cultures and creatures as well as the homeland for several of my friends.
This journey will be a sight for the eyes, nourishment for the mind, and an opportunity for my pottery nerd soul!
My hope is to have you join me on this adventure through blogging, pictures, and conversations...just as I have lived vicariously via travel-dreams or experiences by others the last several years.
Pigtails, headband, and comfy clothes - check! (The headband works as an eye-cover too!)
How did I get here???
(To this point precisely in my journey through life?)
My mind has been a mix of nervous excitement, impromptu planning checklists, to-dos before departure, and some general nervousness regarding both the length of time it will take en-route as well as the amount of time we will be away. My nervousness became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy earlier this week when my ear started acting funky. A quick trip to the Dr. and now at cruising height above the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the US, I’m reassured that my first leg will be reasonably comfortable as we head to Atlanta at 33,000 ft then Los Angeles followed by Sydney then on to Perth to start the next travel chapter. That's 37 hours 45 minutes total in travel time to reach our destination AND we skip a Saturday!
I find myself reflecting on trips from the past as well as what transpired to arrive at this quickly planned adventure. My thoughts digress several years back realizing the life that God realized for Ming and I is perfectly planned.
Comfort food for nervous excitement.
Where did the dreamer in me go?
More recently, I tend to be the person living vicariously through other people’s travel blogs, stories, and dreams. For leisure I typically read or listen to books about travel, new cultures, and creature or nature experiences, but a bit of me had turned off our dreams of a spontaneous travel lifestyle when Ming and I chose to have me leave my IT career in 2016. This morning I awoke to didgeridoo music playing and Hygge lighting in my home that my lovely husband used to 'set the mood' for the day.
Kisses for my sweet-boy.
I left the corporate world to create better mutual balance between our careers thereby giving up some of the income that fueled travel adventures in the past. Some of that decision had to do with accepting that I just wasn’t made for the corporate lifestyle. Although I greatly appreciated the opportunities to grow in my career, something was missing...perhaps it is that dreamer that hid inside me that longed for something bigger?
Now, I find myself heading back on this first leg of this current dream trip via Atlanta, the city I worked from regularly just before exiting the traditional work lifestyle. (Hello to my Atlanta friends and colleagues who may be reading this! I’m waving to y’all from the air with warm regards in my heart.)
Another part of the decision to exit the corporate lifestyle had me reflecting on the pieces of my life that I loved and those I did not love. At the top of my love-list were the love of my husband and a love of pottery. They were closely tied the longest game-play of love in my life thus far (with Pottery in the lead by a few years LOL!).
How can I now see the adventure in the journey to get to this point?
The journey to get to this very point was not simple over the last 6 years. I moved without Ming to Virginia Beach in 2013. We worked separately with him in NY and me in VA for 2 years hoping our house would sell. By 2015, it had not and my work allowed me to move back north until it did. We packed the 1/2 of our household we had in VA and trekked it back north in December of 2015. An opportunity to change paths career-wise materialized and literally 2-months later ( and the week I was changing career rolls) our NY house sold. We thought...God has quite the sense of humor!
Trusty backpack is ready! (You and me buddy! Taiwan, Dubai, Jordan, Lebanon, all over the USA, Costa Rica, DR...now Australia - you're still hanging in there too!)
We were faced with a dilemma in need of a decision. Our hearts knew VA was a desire since loosing my mom in 2011, but also felt the commitments made to a new organization also needed to be honored in Atlanta. So, we then packed close to 100% of our household back up and into storage. We kept only but the essentials in our two sherpas (our cars) named “Taco” and “Blue”.
We were homeless, but not in a way to feel sorry for us. We “staycationed” with “Taco”, “Blue”, and our two dogs Dewey and Wookie for months in some beautiful vacation homes available cheaply during the cold off-season in the Fingerlakes of NY until the thaw of mud-season that spring. This allowed Ming to still travel to his job there, me to travel back and forth to Atlanta as-needed and us both to take several trips to Atlanta to find a new home. My pottery-studio and life at that time was sold with the house and no regrets. I instead envisioned a hobby-pottery lifestyle at a community center at some unknown point in the future.
Three months into “staycationing” and multiple visits to Atlanta for work and home searching without a permanent home solution or job solution for Ming, we realized that maybe Atlanta was not supposed to be our permanent path.
Thankfully, folks at the organization I was working for allowed me to work from anywhere within reason for regular travel to Atlanta and that gave Ming the confidence to leave his job to hunt for a new career path for himself. By June of 2015 we moved temporarily to PA with my Dad, and then by October again back to VA.
Why do I sometimes feel like I need to fight my destined path?
Sometimes I think it’s human-nature to fight against the path that was predetermined for us. It makes for a bunch of turmoil, along with lessons in my experience. Fear I think now was the main driver at that time to not seek the life our minds dreamed of and our hearts told us was right. That created a lot of challenges and changes for us from 2013-2015, but we also learned so much about ourselves, our relationship, how we were wonderfully made with known desires of our hearts.
Just when you think life has steadied - has it - should it?
Back in VA by October 2015, after countless moves (sometimes weekly for months) between 2013 and 2015 we moved into a rental home right next door to my now dear friend Pam, who also happens to be...you guessed it...a potter! She introduced me to the pottery and clay people in Norfolk, Virginia, and I continued to travel back and forth to Atlanta working in the IT world enjoying clay time on the side at the community center.
In VA I was able to re-nourish my pottery soul meeting many new friends at the Titustown Recreational Art Center. I missed the clay community and was welcomed there to meet some really lovely clay people who are now clay friends. We enjoyed making and having tea with Mildred on Friday mornings as well as learning precision decorating techniques with Ann. My mind then dreamed of a studio-space of my own once-again...something I didn’t think in leaving NY I would need again.
In 2017, we decided to buy a house and plant some more permanent roots in Norfolk, VA to be present in the lives of our niece and nephew more regularly. There we purchased a home with a permanent studio space for me so I could again explore a clay-formed path.
What is something that fuels you?
There is something about clay. Once it gets under your fingernails, I think it literally gets in your blood. It can challenge you, you can constantly learn something new, and it's ever changing and molding into something new and wonderful (a lot like how our lives as humans progress through time).
In 1991 I started my clay journey in college. I was working in an inorganic chemistry lab at school to help cover college expenses that was also an EPA water-quality certified testing lab. Simultaneously, I was enrolled as a Physics/Music double-major. I went to college reluctantly. (My Dad tells the story as “kicking and screaming”!) One day early in the semester, a contemplation walk through the building where my 8 am Physics class was held in brought me to the window’d doors of the University pottery-studio.
There, I met my first teacher, Jean Adams. According to University rules I was only allowed to take one clay class with special instructor permission as an elective since I wasn’t an art major. Jean signed my first elective class and the rest was history. I ultimately changed majors to Environmental Science and Geology, continued to work in the Water Quality Lab, and added the Pottery Studio as my respite place for four years. There, I was able to assist Jean mixing glazes which fueled my love of science and chemistry, assist students during open studio, schlep clay from the reclaim bin, load and assist with firing the kilns, all while she also taught me the art of clay. This was my saving-grace through college. It kept me grounded literally and figuratively while I spent many waking hours there with my friend Paula, the sculpture studio assistant.
My graduation-gift from my parents from college was my first wheel. I moved back home with them after college and I opened my first pottery in their basement (not advised if you’re thinking of a pottery part of your journey). I taught kids classes in the summer after graduation in the evenings and on weekends.
Are you one of the 50/50 - brains pulled between hemispheres?
The pull between “using my degree” and “using my pottery skills” started there. I did what was considered to be the responsible thing and found a job in a lab in NY. I moved there with my friend Amy, and we moved back to PA about a year later and with many mini-job experiences later for me. I started another job with the US Geological Survey that also gave me some time in my studio in my parents basement.
I eventually moved on to a consulting job in the Geographic Information Systems field working on some really cool projects for NASA, the EPA, and other government contracts and quickly learned to advance I’d need more computer skills. By 1997 I set sails for Oxford, OH for a graduate degree in Systems Analysis.
My first goal on campus: locate the pottery studio I read about! I met my husband there and also think clay had something to do with that. I think I took him on one of our first dates to the pottery studio to “impress him with some wheel skills” haha! We still own that pot.
We got married and moved to NY where I eventually moved the studio in my parents' basement studio to my own studio there. I joined the Syracuse Ceramics Guild and met many lovely people there that will be life-long friends. We helped to initiate a 35 member-owner Co-op business, attended many Pottery Fair’s and other craft shows...all more-so on the side of our IT careers. I was fortunate to spend some of our 16 years full-time doing production pottery which increased my skills further. I also attended many skill-building workshops with lots of fabulous clay people.
During that time I felt a constant pull between the right and left hemispheres of my brain. I fought it. The right-side pulled me towards what was a perceived “irresponsible or more difficult” path in the arts, the left-side “doing the *right* thing and using my Master’s degree in the Computer Sciences.” I didn't learn that I was actually made to feel this pull until some corporate training did a bunch of team efficiency testing where we found out I was the only person who was a 'middle-thinker' on the team. I learned to actually embrace this way instead of fight-it when I realized that as the bridge between two ways of thinking, I could help progress things understanding the perspectives of both viewpoints. I'm thankful my company at the time put so much into me to help me grown and understand myself so I can now embrace, accept, and not fight myself.
Back in the same place again?
Finally in 2016 (in my 40’s) I thought I may have these two hemispheres out of competition with one another. Ming and I were able to structure a life where I create, and he engineers. In 2017 we bought a house, remodeled it while living in the bedroom and cooking on the back porch, remodeled a detached studio building, and I was then able to pursue clay full-time. Subconsciously, I knew this path choice would require me to dream less about some of our travel desires and be happier in each daily moment, but that sacrifice would also allow me to explore a clay-formed path.
Reflections on the past year?
In 2018, (only a year ago wow!) we were getting settled into our finished house and a newly discovered career balance between the two of us when Ming was unexpectedly let-go due to cost reductions. We both found ourselves sending our IT resumes back out knowing that living on a newly forming pottery business income was not realistic (LOL! I know some of you are laughing at “income” since it pales in comparison with other chosen career paths too often).
Through some difficult months wondering if we could stay in VA and what was next for us, God gave us exactly what was needed when we needed it. I know not everyone believes in a Higher Power, but I certainly do. My life is a testament of things that cannot be merely mathematical coincidence.
What we didn’t know a year ago that we have been reflecting on today and in preparation for today is that God was also setting us up to realize parts of our "Dreamer Life" that we had almost given-up on, or at minimum were resigned to no longer focus much energy on. Those desires of my heart was buried for a bit - but never forgotten.
How has this dreamer returned?
Over the last year, Ming has found a new job that challenges his many varied years of experience and comes home loving it every day. He’s been recognized and utilized in exciting ways.
That leads me to today. I’m self-employed (a.k.a. somewhat flexible), and about 3-weeks ago Ming learned he has an opportunity to go to Australia. He asked me if I could “take one for the team” and join him! Lol! Heck yeah! But what will I do when he is working? Pottery of course! (Don't worry, Ming and I will also have lots of leisure time to enjoy the sights together as well!)
How can I make a plan to change the course/direction in one month or less?
In the last three-weeks I’ve been fortunate to make contact with many people and places. I'm thankful for a lot of divine timing as well as people began to drop into my world the last few weeks with perfect-timing! I desired to achieve three main pottery-related goals:
Meeting potters, touring potteries, and photo/video/blogging about them.
To experience pottery education in another country by teaching and or taking a class there or simply exchanging ideas and conversation with other clay enthusiasts.
To learn the similarities and differences in material availability as well as cultural influences that feed the styles of work in each area.
Thank you to all of my soon to be clay friends for all of the advice, input, offers of help,...I can't wait to meet you all!
How can I put this plan into action?
Over the next several weeks, I invite you to join me on this journey filled with exciting new people, places, culture, food, travel, creatures, and of-course pottery!
Stay tuned as I’ll be out of pocket over the Pacific shortly (and hopefully sleeping for a bunch of that time)! The idea that I loose a day over the International date/time line still makes my brain go poof and the Project Manager question how I will 'make-up' the time.
I hope this first blog of random reflections helps you also to reflect, perhaps heal, and charge ahead on your journey too!
Perhaps the questions I've contemplated are a map of questions for you to ask yourself if you feel stuck or lacking dreams. They helped me realize: a path of zigzags is a part of the adventure! No matter how stuck you might feel, no matter what the dream - keep your dreamer close, take steps towards achieving your dreams, and the desires of your heart will be realized. Hang-on, keep all appendages inside the vehicle because this dreamer is still moving!