Interview 010: Emma Marie Martin
Today's installment of Infrequently Asked Questions is extra special because it features my best friend Emma. You may be thinking "What a cop-out! No best friend interviews allowed!" But you'd be missing out on some serious sass and wisdom. Emma is important to me for a lot of reasons. She's the person I talk to about what I'm learning in therapy. We figured out how to make space for ourselves at around the same time in our hapless youth (like four years ago, probs), and how to fill our assorted voids with creative pursuits and self care versus "sex, substances, and food." (See below.) She always gets me. She's warily excited for me when I tell her I'm in love. She checks in on me from afar when everything is terrible. She never calls me dramatic. She sends me paintings of cats and Sylvia Plath. Because she paints! And she's a badass archivist who rifles through history every day! And you're gonna love her.
What character stuff have you had to actively work on over the past several years?
More than a few things, but here are the highlights: accepting people as they are; accepting myself as I am; giving myself space from others to think and rest and create; and conquering the less glamorous parts of my brain chemistry.
How are you doing on that stuff now?
I can safely say A LOT BETTER for all of them, but it's taken a lot to get here, and I have a ways to go. It was a multi-step process that's still ongoing.
1. The big first step was removing myself from toxic situations: relationships, friendships, anything you would categorize as "dramz." It's easier to see clearly when your energy isn't spent working on permanently dysfunctional situations.
2. Therapy. Therapy forever. Therapy for everyone.
3. Allow for empty space. For me this meant moving to Texas, where I knew no one. I read somewhere that the key is to avoid filling the space with sex, substances, and food.
How would you describe your purpose?
Cat Mom. But seriously, I'm figuring that out every day. I like to add value in other people's lives and I also like work that allows me to be thoughtful and reflective. It's hard for me to pinpoint one purpose because I like to wear a lot of hats. Creativity is just one side of what I'm capable of and what I want to spend my time doing.
Define your career... Then tell us how it's different then you thought it would be.
If you asked 21-year-old me what I would be doing at 27, I would've told you I would be finishing a PhD in English from an elite university. Lulz, baby Emma. She's cute, isn't she? Instead, I entered a terminal English masters program and found archives. Archives have opened a new world to me. I find that I like order and rules, but I also like the unexpected and figuring out what to do with it.
I just finished my Masters of Science in archival studies and I'm starting a position where I consult with government officials about how to take care of their records and their "stuff." It's my first time working with people instead of things in close to 5 years!
In the meantime, I'm still painting. I paint by commission (your heroines and pets) but I'm starting a new passion project focusing on women I care about. Stay tuned!
Do you feel like you've made it yet? Have things clicked? Explain.
The thing that has clicked most is that I want work to be work, and free time to be time for my creative activities. I think doing one of my passion projects full time would decimate me. Archives is a great world because when you're in it, it can consume you, and when you leave, it'll be there waiting for you just as it was the next day. I haven't made it yet (see: first day of first job post-grad), but I find comfort in the fact that I know what I like about what I do and the role I need work to fill in my life.
How do you think others perceive your life path? Do you care?
When I was teaching an early college humanities course, I had just accepted my first job in archives. To me, it was a total dream. I excitedly told the kids that I worked at a research library. They looked at me like I was just The. Lamest. I've come to terms with the fact that my line of work is decidedly not glamorous or even understood by most people. I'm proud of myself and love my field and that's what is important.
I've really struggled with projecting my devotion to my painting to others. What I paint is decidedly not serious - my paintings are whimsical, colorful, and playful. My goal for 2016 is to be able to represent how I feel about my work more truthfully. I take my individual painting missions seriously, even if the content is silly.
Speaking of others, how have your relationships shaped you?
Shout out to all of my lackluster ex-boyfriends! But truly, I've burned some bridges I wish I hadn't, but more that I would torch again in a minute. Lousy people can (briefly) turn you into a lousy part of yourself, but if you can get away from them, you're much more likely to be confident in the best parts of yourself and to pick good people to spend your time with.
What's your perspective on life like now as opposed to 5 years ago? 10 years ago?
I took myself really, really seriously 10 years ago and it affected my life and my relationships in really strange ways. Since about 6 years ago, I've tried to focus on the fun and happiness of life rather than Achieving One Goal to the detriment of my relationships and my self-esteem. It's still really hard for me, but I have a great community of women who make me happy and who build each other up.
What are you most looking forward to?
My new job and having free time to create and tackle new projects. This year's goals are to see more live music, to focus more on feeling in painting, to make new friends, and to use my free time productively.
In your daily life, when are you happiest?
When I'm quiet with my cat, or on a walk, or sitting with friends, or alone at a concert.
On the other hand, how do you pull yourself out of a funk when you're in one? And how did you most likely wind up in said hypothetical funk in the first place?
I allow funks to be funks and reset at the beginning of a new day. I'm a big believer in feeling what you're feeling, sitting with it, listening to it, and getting back to your life.
Any other questions you wish someone would ask you?
Can I pay off your student loans? Yes of course, Oprah!