James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

08: The V-Word, Vulnerability

Last week we talked a bit about honesty. That was a blast. A good friend, Savannah Wood, mentioned to me about her "honesty check" moment.

"I just freaked out last week about a book exchange project I'm working on. It is overwhelming and big, and I wasn't asking for help."

It's crazy that honesty and vulnerability work hand-in-hand. Gotta be honest to be vulnerable right?

Personally, I hate being vulnerable. It's so hard to shake it out of me. Part of starting this newsletter was a test to change that. Sharing opinions on a wide assortment of subjects once a week? Leaving the door open for feedback and critique wide open? Scares the living crap out of me. Even working on projects in public, such as cafes and co-working spaces, puts a bit of pressure on myself. I'm always scared that people are going to look over my screen and think that I'm not working on anything. CMD+M is my best friend, minimizing that Twitter window to give the appearance that my focus is 100% at all times (hi to all the people in this cafe right now if you're peeking). My screen is vulnerable to the public at a cafe, much like my thoughts are vulnerable during this very dispatch. To my luck, I was able to face that fear last week.

I recently joined the Hyde Park DachaIrina Zadov, who runs the space, jokes that it's a cult but it's more like an artist's collective. There are 4 artists salons a year, each with a theme. The salon that opened on January 23rd had the theme of "vulnerability". All the participants created art pieces that touched their interests: from secretly finding beauty in nature to the vulnerability of having one of your senses taken away. It was a diverse bunch to say the least. I was interested in online vulnerability and how we share things through applications, which led to creating a piece where I asked participants to share with me their biggest secret, and then I placed their secret inside the "vulnerable" code fromSnapchat's recent hack. Later, I emailed participants the code and sent them a printed copy to keep as well. Geek moment right? Needless to say, I wasn't off the hook as I shared three secrets of my own and displayed them right on the wall at the opening.

It was interesting to be the keeper of 14 people's secrets, and at the same time, questioning my own vulnerability. It made me wonder why I find it so hard to be vulnerable. In friendship, you can be vulnerable through attention and being honest with feelings. Professionally, it can be asking for help with a project you may not know much about. Vulnerability can even come from trying something outside of your comfort zone. I know this newsletter is certainly pushing me further out of that comfort zone on a weekly basis. 

The ability to share thoughts online (technically, I'm guilty right now) gives us fleeting moments of vulnerability through the ability to be honest at the tap of a screen, but when's the last time we've sat down with a loved one and truly told them what was on our mind? Something beyond a character limit? I'm not doubting the power of social media and it's ability to connect raw thoughts, the #PlaidCollarPrivilege conversation on privilege in the design and tech industry being a wonderful example, but it's so much harder to talk to someone in person about these things and dig beyond the surface, at least to me. And a part of me wonders how to feel about it.
 
Why do you think it's hard to be vulnerable, and what are we afraid of during these moments? In your opinion, what does it mean to be vulnerable? Hit reply and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading and see you next week,

-James


What did I find interesting this week?

1) The Impoverishment of Attention: The importance of focus when it comes to doing work, and how our attention shapes what we see.

2) You Can't Do Everything: Rachel Andrew on having clear objections and goals, and placing your focus on the right things.

3) What It Means to Be A Public Intellectual: One of my favorite writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, discusses Melissa Harris-Perry and what it means to be a public, black, intellectual in today's society.

4) Putting An End to Conferences Dominated by White Men: Sarah Milstein giving some tips on having more diverse events and the importance on having conferences that reflect the people that go to them.

James T. Green