Roswell Reflections, Part Three

I've finally arrived in Virginia, but since I'm still settling in, here's the finale to a series I wrote a few weeks earlier.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been reflecting about my time in Roswell and all the things I've been able to do here. Today, however, I'd like to wrap up this reminiscing by talking about how I've felt about living in Roswell. In short, I'll attempt to answer this question: have I enjoyed living in Roswell?

The short answer is, it's complicated.

Like any experience, Roswell has had its positive and negative aspects for me, beginning with its distinct sense of place. Although I've lived here longer than anywhere else, it's never felt quite like home to me as other places have. A lot of this comes from absence of family here. While I've lived out west before, I was with my parents then. These days, however, my family lives in New England, so I've only been able to see them once or twice a year at most for the last five years. I've missed funerals, graduations, and other milestones since I've been here, and the older I get, the more important it's become to be closer to my relatives.

Going from verdant Vermont to the New Mexico desert was a big change.

Another reason I've felt ambivalent about Roswell is because of where I lived before I came here: Vermont. New Mexico is a profoundly beautiful state, but while it may be known as the Land of Enchantment, it's never had that effect for me. Vermont, on the other hand, is my personal Island of the Lotus Eaters, a place that leaves me feeling spellbound whenever I visit, not to mention it's a lot closer to my family.

Me shortly after I moved to Roswell in 2013, looking fresh-faced and optimistic.

The biggest influence on my stance toward Roswell, however, is the personal growth I've undergone since I've been here. I was 27 when I accepted the curator position, and up to that point had only held short-term internships and fellowships. Since the Roswell Museum was my first "real" museum job, it has also been the place where I've learned about the practical and logistical challenges of not only museum work, but of the workforce in general. It was the first time I really had to experience the repercussions of office drama, limited budgets, politics, and all the other consequences that result from working with other people. Not that working with other people is a bad thing, not at all. We're just imperfect beings with our own egos and desires, and our different objectives don't always mesh.

 Five years later, shortly after the opening of Magical ad Real. Thanks to the City's excellent insurance policy, I learned I have astigmatism and wear glasses now.

Yet that's life. Perhaps some of my time in Roswell was a little more intense because I arrived at the museum during a particularly turbulent moment in its history, but nothing I've experienced was unique. Every place has its good days and bad ones, and part of becoming a professional, an adult, is learning to navigate those ebbs and flows. Roswell taught me how to work within these confines and still excel at the job, but let's be honest, these can be painful lessons to learn. Roswell showed me how much I can actually handle, but in order to find your limits you have to pushed beyond them, and this can hurt.

The New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, which I often thought about when I imagined the grass being greener somewhere else

The first couple of years at the museum were definitely the hardest. Far from home and experiencing curatorial growing pains, I developed a case of greener grass syndrome and started wondering whether moving to Roswell had been a mistake. I ocasionally daydreamed about relocating to Santa Fe because I was convinced everything would be better there. I mean, between the beautiful landscapes, the variety of restaurants, and active arts scene, it had to be, right? As I talked with other arts professionals in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, however, I learned that they had their share of drama and frustration, that their jobs were very cool but by no means perfect. 

As I continued working with the Roswell Museum's exceptional holdings, I stopped feeling the urge to move. Coming to Roswell was only a mistake if I allowed myself to believe it was, and I refused to do that. Instead, I embraced the opportunities available at the museum, and kept my mind open for special projects that would bolster both my career as well as the museum's reputation. When Kirsten M. Jensen called me during the summer of 2014 about collaborating on a retrospective for Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth, I readily accepted. When the City Administration asked me to serve on the search committee for a new director in 2015, I agreed to that too. When I was putting together a relief print exhibition, I saw a chance to put my own art making skills to work and crafted my own workshop. Rather than lament not working somewhere else, I accepted the opportunities that were available here, and my career is all the richer now for it.

Nearly four years after agreeing to collaborate on this project, here I am giving a lecture on Peter Hurd in Pennsylvania. How cool is that?

Outside of the museum, I started seeking out the beauty within the local landscape, especially through my sketching. I also took advantage of the museum's clay studio, art classes, and other opportunities around town. During the summer of 2014 in particular, I went hiking and swimming at Bottomless Lakes just about every weekend. I went at different times of day, primarily morning or evening, so that I could experience different light effects, and studied how the palette of the landscape changed throughout the season as flowers grew or birds migrated. 

I applied these same observations when I was in town. I particularly liked watching the sky whenever I'm on one of my walks, as there are always such dramatic effects. I realized I could find moments of beauty even from my bedroom window.

On a walk, 2014

In other words, I learned to appreciate Roswell on its own terms. It still may not have always felt like home, but I could respect its unique qualities.

Looking out my bedroom window, 2017

I also learned to enjoy all the places I could explore around New Mexico. This is a large state with a diverse geography, and I've visited some wonderful places, from the rolling beauty of San Patricio to the otherworldly White Sands National Monument. I've gone leaf-peeping in Cloudcroft, and been transported to another time at City of Rocks. I've been able to see a lot of things in New Mexico that I wouldn't experience anywhere else, and I'm grateful to have had all these opportunities.

Roswell has underscored for me that what you get out an experience largely depends on what you put into it, and I'm proud of the work I've been able to do there. Moving forward, I know I'll apply the same work ethic to William and Mary.

So have I enjoyed Roswell? Yes and no, but more importantly, it was ultimately a good experience and I have no regrets about living there. Moving forward, I'm sure I'll have good and bad days at William and Mary, but it too will be good for me.

So huzzah to accepting past experiences and embracing new chapters!