My junior year of high school I sat alone in math toward the back of the room hoping my teacher, Mr. Herring, wouldn’t call on me. I felt so foolish in his class. All of the self-confidence I gained in English and journalism fell away in his room. But Mr. Herring never called on me. He must have known I sucked. I realize that some educators today might say he did me a great disservice by leaving me alone, but that’s not the way I see it at all. While other students asked questions and solved problems on the board, I sat dumbfoundedly pondering a sign on his wall. It was crudely handwritten on yellowed tag board and it read:
“You are the only you. . . You are the best you. You will always be the second best anyone else.” -Leo Buscaglia
To this day I remember that sign, perhaps more than any other I’ve ever seen.
Signs are everywhere. They are so pervasive that we subconsciously ignore most of them. That’s why I was so surprised that an installation of signs on the corner of 11th and Market stopped me dead in my tracks this weekend.
I have seen these handmade signs around town, but was never so touched as I was after parking and stepping out of my car to read this Street Sign Project collection.
It says (and not necessarily in this order):
“Unplug Everything. Hocus Pocus. Give. Need. Working Overtime. Naked. Read. Question. Sell. Prepare. Brand New. Old. Smell the Roses. Relax. Look at the Sky. Plant. Cook. Think. Barter. Buy. Boring. Blue. Bodies. Thrive. We All Fall Down. Shiny. Bliss. Get Dirty. Going Out of Business. Hug. It Takes Money to Make Money. Sound. History. A Breath of Fresh Air. Empty. There Are No Winners. Walk in the Rain. Dance. Sexy. Want. Future. Eat Your Veggies. Build. Style. Make Noise. Slow Down. Take. Art.”
I could have stood there for hours amidst the hustle and bustle of Tacoma’s city life–reflecting, remembering, thinking about my future.
According to Street Sign Project’s Facebook page, “it is a collective movement determined to empower individual freedom of speech by encouraging people to install handmade signs in public spaces.” From my perspective, it’s about more than that, though. It’s about art and creativity. It’s about infusing a little bit of personality into the cityscape. It’s about connecting with one another on a level we may not be able to articulate. That’s what art is–creating, infusing, connecting.
We look forward to finding more of these signs around town. Street Sign Project encourages everyone to create and display their own.