Nothing you’ve ever done is wasted.

old photobooth pics from my massive collection

The lost art of the friendly letter

When I was in grade school, we were taught the art of the “friendly letter.” Although I can’t remember every detail now, there was a structure to these handwritten notes — a place to put your return address, the date, a proper way to address your friend or family member or teacher. Did you learn how to write a friendly letter too?

I wrote a lot of friendly letters. And had some random pen pals in Switzerland.

Many years later, I found myself post-college–a newly annointed artist bursting with creativity–discovering mail art. This was a subculture of people who, like myself, loved the medium of making art specifically for the mail. We’d collage postcards, tiny books, cut and paste remnants of everyday life. Think ticket stubs, feathers, shells, drops of red wine, repurposed matchbooks and cocktail umbrellas. We’d manipulate photographs, draw pictures and paste inspiring quotes from old books… Most striking to me now is that we made these things, not for the market or for a readership, but for one person only – the one who would receive this treasure in their mailbox.

It was a gift. Pure and simple. A creative way to communicate between old friends who lived across the miles. A way to explore our creativity with total freedom and joy. There was one particular house I lived in during my time in Santa Barbara where all of us roommates spent nearly every night on the floor of our bungalow with scissors and glue, photo booth pictures and glitter, drinking wine and listening to music and making things. The mailman knew we always got the best mail!

A designer in training

From the outside, all of this cutting and pasting wasn’t amounting to much. I was working as a barista (they called them coffee slingers in those days) and smoking a lot of cigarettes at cafes. I was having lots of fun but feeling aimless. What I didn’t know is that I was also training myself for a step on my future path.

Years later, when I decided I wanted to find my favorite author SARK in San Francisco and convince her to hire me, I decided I would connect with her energetically by making her something. That something turned into a beautiful accordion book full of photographs and quotes, boa feathers and paint, and a letter introducing myself. Because I only had her publisher’s address, I didn’t think it would ever reach her, but I felt moved to connect this way just the same. Several weeks later, I got a call from SARK’s office. Not only did the little book reach her, but they called to tell me that they couldn’t wait to meet me. To meet ME! Apparently that little book functioned as an accidental portfolio piece and I had intrigued them.

The day we all met, I remember reading the Camp SARK mission statement and I cried. It was the beginning of a brand new life, one that aligned with my spirit. In a world where I had no idea what was next for me, where my only professional experience was selling coffee or clothes, I was floored to have suddenly have found a dream job.

And my first assignment there? It was to create a line of licensed gift products based on SARK art. I literally sat on the rug and cut and pasted SARK quotes and artwork into greeting cards and stationery. Turns out all those hours of mail art were the perfect training for a future of design and art-making in the real world. And it was a dream come true.

I love this story because it affirms something I believe wholeheartedly — That whatever you are curious about, whatever delights you and brings you joy is precisely what will take you on the path towards your deepest dreams. You don’t need to connect the dots or even understand it. In fact, it might be better if you don’t. Just do it for the joy of it.

And know that nothing, absolutely nothing you’ve ever done is wasted.

 

31 Comments

  1. Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    oh, andrea, i love this story so so so much. for a thousand and one reasons.
    hugs and sweetness,
    rach

  2. Laura
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    So so true! I love this story!

    ~ When my kids were little, I wrote to crayola (binney&smith at the time) and the letter got passed around and ended with a call from the education director who hired me to be a consultant doing programs for kids and schools and teachers!
    ~ I am now painting and creating and believing that there is a new opportunity for me to follow, I just don’t see it clearly yet!
    BELIEVE!
    : )

  3. Aimee
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I bought and loved some of those SARK greeting cards, but now I love them even more. Thank you for sharing this story; I need to believe that the past few years contain seeds that will come to fruition someday.

  4. Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Oh, Andrea, I love, love, love this. It is so true (and sometimes I grow irritated with myself, because I don’t always follow those sparks, and later see that I should have).

    I really think we can’t see the patterns in our lives until we look backwards. Then the tapestry reveals itself.

    Thanks for the reminder, the push, the inspiration, the love!

    xox

  5. Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    soaking this one in. xo

  6. Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    this is a great post, one I really needed to read right now. thank you!

  7. Posted July 24, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Love this story. Big smile on my face. Thanks Andrea!

  8. Posted July 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I love hearing this story! Thanks so much for sharing it. I can’t wait to see how the things I’ve been practicing the last couple of years are eventually put to use. Super exciting to think of all the possibilities! ~Jennifer

  9. Posted July 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Powerful story! Pure delight to read!!

  10. Jim
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I have the Sark greeting card “How to be Really Alive” (autographed by Sark) framed and hung in a prominent place in my home that I can see every morning….happy to learn you had something to do with it!

  11. Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    You can add my love for this story today. It’s perfect. I am working through these exact kind of thoughts and questions at the moment and it’s so lovely to have a reminder that I don’t need the answers. I can just follow the joy.

  12. Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, I cannot even begin to express how wonderful this post is. I’m remembering now how I originally came across you, which was seeing you in SARK book and thinking, “What a beautiful girl she is.” Instantly inspired by you. In fact, I believe you were one of the reasons I even considered starting my own company.
    I don’t get over to your blog enough, but when I do it’s always so worth it.
    Thank you for sharing this one…

  13. Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I believe this! I believe this so wholeheartedly! So often today we find ourselves measuring the outcome of doing something before even doing it. But oh, how joyful it is to do something just ’cause you wanna. And then, maybe (or maybe not), find out it was just what you needed to get you where you wanted to be. Thank you for sharing this story.

  14. elisa mikiten
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    When does your acting career begin? Look at those expressions on your face.

  15. Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I love this story for its truth and beauty. I so, so agree.

  16. Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Mmmmmm….a lovely post indeed! *Exactly* the affirmation and inspiration I needed to read today. THANK YOU!!! :)

  17. Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Wa-ooooo-h!

    I might just leave it at that, and know you get it. Total love. xo

  18. emily b
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Just what I needed today! Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture

  19. Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I love everything about this post. Everything.

  20. ellie
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    As someone who likes to know how and when the dots will or could connect and could spend hours and days analyzing their probability and likelihood of whether they will connect, so to know if its even worth making the dot in the first place….ah, this is a nice breath of fresh air to hear this today and remember they will. Dot & Dream…i like it! thanks :)

  21. Posted July 26, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I agree 100% – it’s all about the following the energy of what you love because that energy moves like a zip line taking you toward all these other things you can’t see yet, but which will reveal themselves when you get there. Great post Andrea.

  22. Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    What an inspirational story! I love this… and as always, was just what I needed to read this morning. Great stuff!! Thank you! :)

  23. Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    tears rolling down over here…

  24. Laura Cox
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t possibly express how much this means at this point of my life.

  25. Posted July 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this! As a 19 year old just starting my second year of college, I’m constantly bombarded with pressure to excel, not fail, be professional at all times in order to score a job (and not end up unemployed and homeless). It’s making me afraid of failure very much, and afraid that I’ll never reach my dreams.

    Thanks for the inspiration, art truly does have a place in this world!

  26. Posted July 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Dearest Andrea,
    You are such a sparkling star scoop of wonder + joy!!!
    Loving you~

  27. Posted July 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Dearest Andrea,
    You are such a sparkling star scoop of wonder + joy!
    Loving you~

  28. Posted July 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    guess i wanted to post it twice;-))

  29. Posted July 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful story….thank you for sharing that. Uplifting & encouraging!! Love it.

  30. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    This is SO great!! I do believe in “everything happens for a reason” and also that things that don’t work out aren’t wasted because you learned something from them – what you don’t like, etc. What a great read!

  31. Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    love it. these are very inspiring and helpful words.

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