A Year in the Arena

I’m not a very private person. I attempt to live my life in such a way that it’s a story worth telling and I deeply enjoying sharing that story, almost as much as I enjoy hearing the stories of the people around me. Or, better yet, creating one together.

This year, my friends, we’ve taken that to the extreme. The Hearth has grown in ways that I only dared hope would happen as Hearth Members and event attendees have walked into this budding community and made it their own. We’ve built a home together; hosted a conference; started a dancing night, a writing night, and a makers night; and brought together 3,000 people for a festival. Cory released an EP, Ryan bought a condo, Robin received her MBA, Erin moved to Boston from Virginia, Nathan launched a new website, Matt ran every Spartan Race he could find, the list goes on and on. The Hearth is quickly becoming what it was meant to be all along: a conduit for driven, passionate people to find the support to turn their dreams into a reality.


But all of this wonderful growth comes at a cost. This year, we’ve pushed ourselves to the limits and beyond. We’ve created beautiful things, deepened our relationships, made some wonderful stories, and in doing so spent all of our reserves.

BIG Art; Tiny House 2nd Weekend - John Burke (2)Personally, I am a wee bit spent. And by a wee bit spent, I mean I’m not quite sure I’ve ever been this exhausted in my life. In addition to the physical exhaustion from working roughly 407 days in a row (don’t worry, Mum, I took off the entire first week of August), there’s been the mental and emotional toll from creating large-scale projects in such a public way. Gone are the days of whittling away alone in the studio, thanking Grace herself that no one can see the my clashing paintings-in-progress until I’m ready to show them. Instead, this year I made my mistakes on the front lawn of The Umbrella while building Aubergine, on stage at WhatIMake: The Conference, in the heat of the 2nd BIG Tiny House Festival.

The day before the festival, in an attempt to sooth my beaten and bludgeoned brain, I followed Ryan‘s recommendation and rewatched Gladiator. It reminded me of the Theodore Roosevelt quote I first encountered in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, now one of my favorites:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

This year, I have lived my life in the arena. I have come face to face with my limits more severely than ever before. The only thing that made it possible was the fountain of beautiful people who fought with me, for me, and next to me, getting covered with the same dust and sweat, experiencing the same great enthusiasms. As I wind down from what has been the most intense year of my life so far, preparing to hole up in the woods for a month napping, reading, making, and singing, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude.

Thank you to the people who came out and did construction, who followed and cheered along the story, who showed up at Hearth Events and added their warmth to the community, who helped organize and spread the word. If a dream is only as strong as the people who share it with you, than ours can do anything. Steal a hug from a person you love and crack open a bottle of hand-crafted hard cider, cause we did it.  And, after a month of rest, we’re going to keep doing it.

After all, this is just the beginning of the story.


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