Yesterday morning I finally finished my rough draft of the Great Seal of the State of Wyoming to brand on the Wyoming flag bison. A small success along this very long road. I look both ways, behind me and ahead, with a giddy sort of excitement and an extreme amount of gratitude that I do not travel alone.
I have come such a long way from the day I was browsing the shelves at my local library, looking for a story to sink my teeth into. There is no way that I would have made it this far without the guidance, advice, love, and support that I’ve received from family, friends, and colleagues. With each new success, I find myself feeling more and more grateful for my community of loved ones. I sit astounded by the fact that two professional artists have agreed to look over my rough draft, giving me notes and suggestions. With each line I placed, I felt what flag designer Verna Keays Keyes called divine inspiration, as though my hand was guided. Still today I found myself tweaking a line on the cowboy’s cuff, then adding a ripple to the shirt of the miner.
Going into Shabbat, I already have a running list in my head of my next steps for when Shabbat ends. In many ways, I need this Shabbat more than ever to pause, reflect, and celebrate. Of course, not everyone feels this way. A few years back I found myself disagreeing with one of my bright and quick-witted friends who did not believe in celebrating minor accomplishments, especially if it was something they were expected to do–like go to class, study, and get a good grade. We couldn’t have disagreed more. I am the type of person who made myself a large celebratory spaghetti dinner with a bottle of wine after I took my first GRE–didn’t even know what score I’d gotten, I was just proud I did it at all. In the course of googling for our discussion, I learned that many psychologists agreed with me: the most reliable way to reach a long term goal is to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way. The Seal is by no means finished, and I don’t have a flag for sale yet. But this week, I reached a small cause for celebration. Over the last several months I picked myself up from my first design rejection and taught myself Adobe Illustrator. Each new element, I found myself taking advice from my father who has experience creating technical drawings for the oilfield, and grateful for my mother’s critical eye (especially when it comes to hair-styling and motion lines). Their constant critique on my work in progress helped me fine tune each detail until now, the image nearly complete.
Just as much as I believe that it is important to take a moment to feel proud each step of the way to a long term goal, I also know that a proper celebration recognizes the people who helped you reach that step. One day soon, I hope to sell a Wyoming State Flag that is endorsed by the state government, manufactured in Wyoming, and honors the two women who gave us the flag by offering two styles. Verna Keays Style as originally designed with the bison facing away from the staff, and Grace R. Hebard Style with the bison facing toward the staff. I hope to fix the obvious errors in flags flying over Wyoming now with borders much too wide and the broken chains symbolizing equal rights missing. On that day when I finally hoist my first flag, I can be confident that all of the people who have offered me advice, critique, support, and excitement all along this journey, will be by my side then.