As an art teacher who is still at the beginning of my career, I am frequently asked if I am going to work towards a Master’s degree. Once I explain that I am currently working towards my Master’s in Art History, I am immediately met with, “Oh, that’s great! What are you going to do with that?” I find myself a year away from turning 30; I have stability with my present career as an art teacher, which provided the freedom for the next part of my grand plan, which was to choose to get my Master’s in anything I wanted.
I chose art history for a few reasons…
The main reason behind my choosing to study art history was due to the way that art has the ability to visually chronicle the history of our civilizations that predate our present. We are unable to view what our future and our present is only what we see in front of us, but the past is littered with relics of where we come from. These relics provide reminders of our achievements, failures, and predecessors, which carries an immense sacred nature that needs to be studied and preserved.
The definition of relic is:
noun: relic; plural noun: relics
an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.
We primarily think of a relic as an object that relates to general human history, such as a famous painting in a museum or statue depicting a figure from antiquity, however, we all possess our own relics that remind us of our personal history. At the start of my 29th year, I can think of no better time to reflect on some of the relics from my past. I recently discovered a photograph showing my maternal grandparents on their wedding day.
Standing on either side of my maternal grandparents are their respective parents, my great-grandparents. Here in this tiny, flimsy, black and white photograph is a prodigious portion of my history. This relic encompasses so much of who I am. It captures a moment in time that started a series of events that have lead to who I am as a person in my own present. I look at their faces and see so much of myself in them. I not only see my eyes in my grandpa and my smile in my grandma, but I see my unapologetic honesty in my Great-Grandma Riley’s piercing stare and energetic essence from my Great-Grandma Sieber. I see their hardworking natures that never allowed any of them to quit and the hard decisions that have yet to be made along with the many celebrations that will occur. I see my need for cleanliness, control, and order in all of them and I can hear my Mom saying to me, “We get it honestly Andy.” I see the crown on my Grandma’s head and think how she must’ve always been wearing one, because that is how I always saw her. I look at all of them, my grandparents look like children, and I think about how they had no idea what lay before them.
The lessons learned and gifts that have been passed on by our predecessors within their respective present create the sacred aspects of these personal relics.
My paternal grandparents are no exception in how their learned lessons and gifts have effected me in my own present. Here is a picture of them taken for their 50th Wedding Anniversary:
My Dad was one of their 9 children to be raised in a home that promoted hard work and strength. My grandma was featured in a newspaper for holding a record for most births through cesarean section. If that isn’t an example of strength, perseverance, and love for one’s family then I don’t know what is! My grandparents are also the source of my Catholic upbringing that has contributed to my own spiritual path. I wrote before about how I received my need for cleanliness, control, and order from my Mom’s side, but I know I received these gifts from my grandma as well. I mean with 9 children, how could you not need structure!? My grandpa possessed quite the green thumb who always had a strong garden within arms reach, which is a quality I have discovered more recently within myself, a quality that I count among the relics of my past that I will proudly continue. Oh yea, and their fabulous banana bread recipe, but I won’t be sharing that. Most importantly, I see the pride in my Dad and his siblings’ faces when they share stories of their pasts, of their strong parents, and I am proud to be a part of it.
A person’s closest link to their past is their immediate family. I am lucky enough to have an immediate family that has tripled in size over the last decade, which is a point of immense personal pride.
Here is the only image that I currently possess of my parents’ wedding day and again I find myself thinking how they had no idea of their future, a future that their children are proud of. My parents made decisions that always put the future of my younger brother and I first, no matter how difficult it was for them in their present to do so. My mom was the first of her family to achieve her college degree. This was an experience that required a great amount of strength and courage for her to pursue and complete. As a result, my brother and I truly understood the importance of education and furthered our own into our respective graduate degrees. My parents also met at this college, the same college I would eventually attend. My dad also recently retired from this college where he worked to provide for his children. So, Baldwin-Wallace University stands as another relic of my family history.
My parents divorced in October of 1999 and when I explain to people how positive that really was, it takes them by surprise. I explain how they came together, did what they needed to do, and now I have a family that transcends any expectations I could've had as a child when they were still married. Watching my parents navigate parenting has always been nothing short of entertaining. I know they aren’t going to coffee to discuss the decisions and events happening in our lives and how they should advise us, and yet they give us the same advice without knowing it. They unknowingly co-parent. My parents are now re-married and provided my brother and I with the two most incredible step-parents that one could hope for. I am incredibly lucky to say that I have four amazing parents who I have positive and supportive relationships with, where some aren't lucky enough to have one. We also gained a step-brother and step-sister from both of these step-parents. Along with our older brother, my younger brother, and I have this new immense support system that wouldn’t exist without our parents having the strength to make those tough decisions. I couldn’t imagine our family any other way.
So, here I am, about to conclude a phase of life and embark on a new one. These sort of moments in my life have often plagued me with fear. I have feared disappointment and failure. I fear the unknown because I fear the possibility that I ultimately won’t have control over the outcome, because in reality you rarely do. I was born and raised in the same city with no plans of ever leaving. I had planned on creating and raising my own family and future right where I was standing. It was a safe and secure bet and I felt damn good about it. My future on the other hand had other plans and through a series of events that occurred over a four week period, I moved across the country with everything I owned, my two cats, and an 8 month long relationship. Well here I am, three years later, no longer fearing the future and the possibility of failure. Now I know that because of who I am, who I come from, and who I am with, I can approach my future without fear. I look at the faces within these relics of those who have come before me, the predecessors of my past, and think about how they didn’t know what lay before them. Then I realize they are also looking at me and whisper, “Neither do you.”