Our twenties are for adventurousness. This is our time to push the boundaries, to question everything and know that we know nothing. These are our explorative years, the times we should be using to create memories that we’ll reflect on 80+ years from now, creasing our smile lines even deeper.
Over the past few months, I’ve been adventuring, questioning, exploring and creating. I hardly recognize the person I used to be, who hated change and feared the unknown. I now find myself chasing discomfort because I’ve discovered the magic in it that leads to so much growth and so many possibilities.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s horrible. There’s a reason we tend to stay within our comfort zones: it’s nice and comfy in there! But getting out of it, at least every once in a while, leads to some pretty life-changing experiences. So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do—to lean into that feeling of discomfort until I’m on the brink of falling.
As a result, over the past few months I’ve done some amazing (and sort of strange) things. Most recently…?
I painted naked in front of a total stranger.
Yep, I just did that.
This stranger (who is no longer a stranger) is a local muralist, artist, gerontologist, founder of Ageless InterAction and stripper.
Meagan Jain has made it totally impossible to put her in a box, and it’s awesome.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
I was having an icky day, to put it lightly. Hours of Atlanta traffic, torrential downpours and the loveliness that is job hunting had left me completely deflated and wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and cry.
I needed something to feed my soul.
I vented to one of my new Atlanta besties who is totally awesome and has blue hair and loves rock climbing (possibly one of my next “Inspiring 20somethings?”) and she told me about this really cool artist, Meagan Jain.
She said Meagan was teaching an upcoming art class that helps women love their bodies and embrace their inner strength through painting naked.
After the soul-crushing day I’d had, it seemed like the perfect thing to jolt me from my rut.
I signed up for the class, not totally knowing what to expect, other than a group of women creating art and embracing their bodies.
I was apparently the only one who signed up for that date, as most people had chosen a later one.
So, this group class turned into a one-on-one session. I didn’t know how that made me feel. More nervous? Less nervous? I’d be in my birthday suit around fewer people, but that also meant more attention on me.
I showed up at Meagan’s studio with sweaty palms, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. As soon as she opened the door, though, I knew I hadn’t.
Her studio was stunning, filled with the smell of incense, great music, fun colored lights, and boundless positive energy, which probably came straight from the wonderful Meagan herself. She radiates positivity and warmth from the second you meet her, and quickly made me forget that I was about to do what is quite possibly the strangest thing I have ever done in my life.
After a couple glasses of bubbly and some great conversation, we were ready to get started, but I still wasn’t exactly sure what that meant…
I began lying down on my back on a blank canvas (very symbolic and what not) in the middle of the room. If you’ve ever done yoga, it’s similar to starting the class in Savasana, aka Corpse Pose, aka lying still on your back and clearing your mind to fall into a deep state of relaxation, like, well, a corpse.
Meagan’s soothing voice and calming words helped me quickly ease into the right frame of mind to gain as much from the class as possible. She had me focus on the sensations I felt: my hand on my arm, my breathing, my legs, my toes.
Lying on the floor, feeling pretty self-conscious and a little awkward, I stripped down to my undies. It felt weird and vulnerable and completely foreign.
“People wear clothes like armor. We think of our personal style as being an expression of our most real, true selves, but that’s so wrong. Our bodies are our real selves, and we should never be ashamed of them,” Meagan said.
Though she was completely and totally right, I was having a hard time truly feeling that and allowing the armor we’re all so used to wearing to just fall away.
“Okay, so this is the part people either love or hate,” she said.
She turned up the music and we danced. I hated it at first, but soon allowed my inhibitions to melt away, feeling the music, seeing the warmth of the purple lights, letting my thoughts drift away.
Eventually, it felt as natural as breathing.
Once I was truly feeling comfortable in my own skin, it was time to paint. I chose my colors, and got to work.
As I poured the paint from the cups, I watched it trickle onto the blank canvas, splattering and spreading color everywhere.
I painted like a child would, not worrying about what the finished work would look like, not worrying about what I looked like, not worrying about anything. For the first time in a long time I was completely present, engaged in the here and now, even more than I was after an entire semester of taking a mindfulness course in college!
I painted with my feet, my hands, my elbows. I danced on the canvas. I threw paint and let it splatter in its own shapes and patterns, relinquishing control and just doing whatever felt right in that moment in time.
The sounds and colors and feel of the paint between my toes transported me into a state of pure creation and bliss. I felt like a child again, in the best possible way.
An hour passed like seconds, and then it was over.
“Now, sit back and look at what you’ve created.”
I did, and it was beautiful. Not in the sense that it should sell in a gallery for two million dollars (though if you’d like to buy it for two million dollars I would definitely not be opposed) but in the sense that it told a story. I could see where I’d dragged my hands across the top, where I’d sunk in my fingers and toes, where I’d lightly splattered here and there. There’s a ridge in the paint from where I knocked over a cup.
The painting has an energy to it, like it’s a living and breathing memory captured on canvas. Like the canvas absorbed not only paint, but also the sounds, light, movements and feelings in the room.
“Place a hand over your stomach, and one over your heart. How do you feel different than when you started? The most obvious is that you’re covered in paint. But what about emotionally? How are you feeling? What are your thoughts?”
Again, similar to a yoga practice, aside from the obvious difference that I was naked and covered in paint, of course.
“I feel like I just had an artgasm.”
It was bliss. It was like losing your mind completely, allowing yourself to be totally free, then sitting quietly, feeling a total release of energy and creativity and art.
I was amazed at how much I changed in the mere hours since I’d arrived at Meagan’s studio. My thoughts in the beginning of the class couldn’t be farther from the thoughts that ran through my mind at the end.
I felt proud, empowered, creative and bold. I had done something that terrified me, and came out the other side changed in such an amazing way.
Now, I know naked painting may not be for everyone, and that’s totally okay. (If it is, though, sign up for one of her workshops! Do it, do it, do it!)
Your naked painting class doesn’t have to actually be a naked painting class, though.
Maybe it’s rock climbing, though you’re terrified of heights.
Joining an improv class, though public speaking feels like, well, being naked in front of strangers?
Maybe it’s taking dance lessons, though you’re fairly certain you have two left feet.
Whatever your naked painting class looks like for you, do it. Strip off your armor. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable, trillions of miles away from your comfort zone.
If you hate it, what’s the worst thing that happens? You feel uncomfortable for a couple hours of your life? So what? Do it.
Doing things that scare you isn’t about being fearless. It’s the complete opposite. It’s doing it because it scares the hell out of you.
Sending you all my love today and always, my little chickadees.