I've been an artist for most of my life, a writer, a creative. These are all labels, solely serving as a convenient way to convey the medium in which I work. I string words together to craft images and thoughts, to form stories. Being a creative is interesting, but my creative facility isn't what led me to where I am now. My writing did a lot to help me cope, but pursuing it to this point was simply a matter of grit.
Ask any creative and the difference between the ones who do and the ones who talk about doing is that same grit, that ability to get up and do something even when it's hard, when we don't want to. People often lament an era where we have less grit than those before us, while others argue that our circumstances just don't allow for us to show our grit. I don't have the answer to this debate, but I do know grit when I see it, and I see a lot of it in Gabriella Martucci Jones.
Of all things we talk about first, aviation proves to be an oddly common bond between the two of us. Her husband is a pilot on the C-17, the same aircraft that I worked on for years in the military as a Crew Chief. There are many things I love on this road of collecting stories, but moments where my path crosses another in such an unexpected way make me smile a little brighter.
Gabriella is a musician, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a believer and so much more. Sitting in her presence you can feel an indomitable strength, not the strength of someone you cannot knock down, rather the strength of one you cannot keep there. Her smile conveys joy, faith and a subtle challenge to the world that she is here and she is ready. We talk about how we can't remember who connected us, about the nature of Charleston as a relationship town and, as the words move ever onward, it seems to matter less and less how we got here, just that we did.
She tells me of music, of the smiles it has brought from her and the cries it has shepherded her through. Gabriella's story is interwoven, a hidden chorus, among those songs she has played, those notes to which she has applied her voice. Sitting across from her I wonder about that voice, the one that emerges from her when she sings. There is a wondrous melody to her speech, one which I have a feeling pales a bit next to her voice. It's a true gift from God, one I am not blessed with, but one I can imagine coming from her as she leads worship in a church, something that has also been tied closely to the music in her life.
It would be easy to look at Gabriella and make assumptions about her life. It seems easy to do that about anyone honestly, to allow our presuppositions about them to take in breath and live, dancing around in their own narratives in our head. As with so many others I will not tell you the stories she entrusted me with, that's not the point of what I do, but I will tell you it is nothing short of phenomenal. Almost the stuff of operas and equally tied to music in its entire span.
The forge which crafted Gabriella is a mix of life and love, of learning and feeling your way through times both good and bad. It is the path which imbrued her with such grit, such spirit. I am sitting across from a woman who cannot be stopped, whose strength is unrivaled and who would give the credit for all of that to a higher power. That resilience is what has gotten her this far.
We talk a lot about being entrepreneurs. All artists are entrepreneurs, we all seek the farthest and most unique definition of ourselves, ultimately finding our true individuality in our respective crafts. While all artists are entrepreneurs on some level, not all of us ever seek to be entrepreneurs in our own lives, to build something and deal with the struggle of it. Gabriella tells me about inspiration, about the constant message of inspiration delivered through countless podcasts and books, about feeling a certain lack of accountability within them. I tell her I believe that if you haven't woken up in the middle of the night and through "what the hell am I doing," then you aren't a real entrepreneur.
We are artists, rhetoric and hyperbole bore us, we see a more nuanced world, both to our advantage and our detriment.
As we talk and share, weave our stories and our art in air filled with the deep smell of ground coffee and the noise of passing cars intruding through a constantly opening door, I realize how much I need this. It has been a while since I sat down and talked about art with another creative; a long time since I shared my doubts and fears. Our world is one where we desire vulnerability yet advertise glory and strength, selling our perfection to each other even as we deceive ourselves. For Gabriella and I there is not time for that. We have dreams to achieve, art to make and the world is not slowing down.
Walking out of our meeting I take a moment in my car and jot down some notes on another project, one that has eluded me for some months. I have just now started digging back into it. My time with Gabriella, with her story and her grit, her defiance at the idea of not making it and her passion for building something herself has inspired me. I know many writers who invoke the Muse before working. I have always preferred to let inspiration work its way naturally, trusting God to provide and not forcing anything until it is there.
Today it was Gabriella and her story that inspired, that awoke a sleeping idea at just the right time.
Not because of shine and polish.
Not because of rhetoric or cheers.
Because of her grit. Because she won't give up and she won't accept me doing it either.
Favorite Dinosaur: She doesn't have one.
Why: She has been so focused on her music and her drive, it is her passion and her love, her world and the change she will make in it.