, I used to draw, I was 9 years old, and we had just moved from Fairfileld, Iowa to Zinder, Niger. Both small towns, but I guess that's where the similarities end. Nothing in my short life had prepared me for what I now can label as culture shock. I suddenly stuck out everywhere I went like a sore thumb. I didn't speak the language. I remember the first day my brother and I showed up in our new school- a one-room-classroom with an eccentric teacher who liked to wear pastel colored sweaters tied around his shoulders (we're in the sweltering Sahara desert here folks), a room full of students of every hue and background. But none of them spoke my language. Sitting at the back of the classroom, trying to extract meaning from gesticulations and to decipher the unfamiliar sounds and syllables- I was completely lost.
And so I drew. There were many drawings of a little girl, very white, very blonde, perhaps standing in front of a little home, or in a field of flowers. There might have been a cat or a dog. My brother and I were allowed two pet turtles, we named them Minnie and Moe (catch a tiger by his toe) and they lived in a chicken wire enclosure under the one tree in our yard. Which was actually a giant sand box. Which was actually the best yard in the world.
My mother encouraged the drawing. At one point I had a teacher, a young French lady (who had studied at the Sorbonne!) who taught me how to draw careful lines with a Rotring ink pen over washes of watercolor. I don't think I had any particular aptitude for drawing, but surely what mattered more was that I had an encouraging parent, and especially that the drawing helped me feel less adrift in my confusing world. Maybe through the drawing I could uncover clues as to who I was and what I was experiencing.
Flash forward a decade or so and I am about to drop out of a full scholarship ride to one of the top private liberal arts colleges in the US. I have taken a semester off and am waiting tables at a sushi restaurant managed by the most oppressive, chauvinistic Korean-American man this side of the Mississippi. Ultimately I don't drop out, but choose instead to switch majors from anthropology to art. And through the following years, as I struggle to yet again make sense of my life , to break through to this terrible thing called 'adulthood', the process of making art becomes an anchor in stormy seas.
Again, I go back to my mother. How can the value of her consistent encouragement be quantified? And I feel undeserving of the priceless gift of having absorbed, during the 15 years we lived in Japan, a perspective which recognizes the practice - be it tea, ikebana, or a martial art- as a life long path of limitless self-discovery.
And so I draw. There is this thing going on right now on Instagram called the #100dayproject. I have no idea how many people are currently engaged in the project, but as of 4:15 pm on May 8th, 2018, there are 402,714 posts using this hashtag. The idea is a simple one: take any creative project, something small and sustainable, and do it, just a little bit, every day. Who cares if you are 'good' or 'bad' at it, just show up, and learn to fall in love with the process.
My journal of plants a month or so into the #100dayproject
Lara Chho was raised as a global citizen, living all over the US and Africa as a child and youth, and living in Japan from 1998 and 2013 where she met her husband and raised her 3 children. She has been exploring clay since 1992 and flowers since 2006. She is passionate about using the arts as a means for self-discovery and for building community.