I hope you are having a wonderful summer. My family and I had the great privilege of traveling to Italy and France this summer. It was a wonderful experience for our family. Not without the normal challenges of navigating activities for a family with a wide range of ages. Our children are 6, 9, 13 and 16 respectively now. I have not spent much time in Europe, so I was nervous about how it would be as an experience. Without Mae’s insistence on us going, I likely would have opted for a safer, more predictable family vacation like going to the beach or something. Fortunately we followed Mae’s lead and went. We all had a good time and perhaps more importantly I learned once again that stepping out of my (our) comfort zone led to breakthroughs that I couldn’t have imagined on a personal, familial or professional level.
While touring landmarks like the Vatican, the Coliseum and seemingly in nite museums, I was struck by how universal and applicable even the most ancient works of art and architecture are to each of us. I couldn’t help but recollect on the meaning of my own life’s work while looking at Michaelangelo’s work and the wide array of art and mind blowing architecture. I was struck by the consideration of work that stands the test of time. It was more than just beauty or aesthetic pleasure that achieved greatness. It was more than just story. It seems that the works that we still marvel at today, which are often centuries old, speak to the deepest parts of our whole selves. Much of the art communicates something while at the same time asking a question. The answer to the questions vary, are debated, and seldom provide a black and white interpretation (with few notable exceptions). But there they stand nonetheless, their creators long passed. Long lines of modern folks waiting to just take a glimpse at a sculpture, painting or church.
It dawned on me that what we all shared in common was a desire to connect with the in night…something larger than ourselves. The anti-self if you will. I couldn’t help but feel an enormous connection to the works themselves as I stood staring in awe at them. I made me ponder. What is that I do or want to do with my own work? With my own life? Everything I have done seems so small in comparison to say Michaelangelo.
Then I was reminded of a quote from Michaelangelo himself who when asked how he created David answered, “It’s easy, you just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David”. At the heart of AIM House is this same notion. In essence what we strive to do is help remove the parts of ourselves that are not us. The behaviors we have adopted that do not suit us, or the faulty coping mechanisms we have adapted that no longer serve us. Satisfaction in the work we do at AIM House paradoxically has little or nothing to do with me. The art is helping others see themselves for who they truly are and giving them the tools to chip away the parts that are not them. People do not need to change to get better. They need to get rid of what isn’t them and be who they are. There are so many young people we have the great fortune of working with who are bringing their authentic selves to the work in beautiful ways.
When I hear stories from Alex about the amazing work he is doing staring his own program in La Jolla, I feel satisfaction and joy that is immeasurable. Tucker and Chris and so many others celebrating long-term recovery and raising their own families with meaningful work brings tears to my eyes. Grooving to Frankie “Melodeyes” beats on ITunes and seeing his live shows at Madelife brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Hearing about Lily’s adventure this summer in Africa and contemplating cultural relevance is astounding. Watching John sponsor other young adults and serving the greater community of young people recovering here in Boulder. Seeing Josh complete medical school, soon to be a psychiatrist and wondering how he will impact the world is simply amazing. Dancing with newly wedded Charlotte and other alums and her wedding… All of these “kids” were the “at-risk” ones! As the identified patients they were “troubled youth and young adults”. They figured out ways to remove the parts of themselves that were not them and today they shine in each of their own ways.
I am no Michaelangelo, let’s be clear. I am however extremely proud and grateful of the work we do here at AIM House and the long-term ripple effect it has had on the lives of many young people and their families, and thus the world at large. This is our art. It is a great privilege and honor to be a small part of the lives of so many great people. Thank you all for affording us the opportunity to the work we do here at AIM House.