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A Year of Yes: Making time for Michelangelo at the Met

“The wait’s going to be at least an hour.”

That’s what one of the guides said to me at the Met when I inquired about the insanely long line to see the exhibit Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. I almost left without seeing it. Almost. But then I remembered my commitment to say yes more often in 2018 (even though it was still 2017.)

So I wound my way through multiple gallery spaces and parked myself at the very end of the line. I knew it would be crowded; I doubted I would be able to get up close to the pieces. And that was okay with me. I just wanted to be in the presence of the work. So I waited. For about 10 minutes, not even close to an hour, and then I was there. The first part of the exhibit was crowded but I was able to get up close to the work in many of the galleries. Very close to it.

“Yes, I’ll stay in line” was the right answer.

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Toward the end of the exhibit, I came to this placard. It’s short story hit me right in the gut. I audibly gasped. To give the illusion of perfection, to hide his process and his struggle in his work, Michelangelo burned many of his sketches. He wanted people to think his talent was effortless and god-given even though it was far from it.

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Think of all that lost work. Think of everything we could have learned if he hadn’t been so concerned about the illusion of perfection.

I sat there in the middle of the exhibition and thought about how afraid we all are to show our stumbles and missteps, how we savor the performance and cringe at the endless practice it took to get there.

When I left the museum, I turned and looked back at the building in the cold, dark night. I was so glad and grateful to be able to come to this museum any time I want, to live in a city that build castles to creativity. And as I looked at the Met, I thought about how much art has changed my life. And how much effort, how much beautiful effort, it takes to be an artist of any kind.

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What if we could all commit to being a little more authentic, to sharing when we’re lost and confused and unsure of how to proceed, to asking for help? What if we could be okay with admitting failure and defeat because accepting them while not being discouraged by their existence gives us resilience and confidence? Imagine what we could learn, what we could inspire, and what we could teach others in the process. I say, yes. Let’s.

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