Life after divorce: How a watercolor class and a foul-mouthed 13-year-old helped me to lose (and find) myself

Image for post
Image for post
Painting by Maria Dal Pan, created Feb. 13, 2021 in a Zoom watercolor class hosted by Uncommon Goods.

Since the pandemic has spoiled so many of my favorite activities, to avoid a complete spiral of despair, I have made it my mission to try new things.

Last March, at the height of my covid anxiety, I began a nightly bath ritual — with candles — as a way to cope with the stress. Then, like a million other people, I tried gardening, hacking up a chunk of yard and triumphing months later when I had enough cucumbers to start having daily Greek salads. I bought pink Nikes and discovered new running routes through my neighborhood with wonderfully vicious…

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Maria Dal Pan

I was snuggled alone on my couch debating whether or not to get up and make dinner when a text message appeared on my phone:

“Hi there, how’s it going?”

Seemed pretty normal. The only problem was I did not know who sent it. I checked the phone number. Despite the 646 area code (New York City, where many of my friends live), I did not recognize it at all.

This happened to me once before. In this strange year of multiple global crises, job loss and heartbreak, it hadn’t been unusual for someone to unexpectedly reach out to say…

Image for post
Image for post
Writer and editor Maria Dal Pan interviews costume designer Patricia Field at her boutique January 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images, license obtained for use)

My career as a writer took a path I never expected.

After graduating university with an English Literature degree, I spent 10 years as a business reporter, entertainment editor and features writer, working my way through daily news. Then, as newspapers bled jobs during the Great Recession, I realized I could put those same skills to work writing press releases, speeches and internal communications — first for the government, then for CEOs of global corporations.

I have learned a lot during the first 20 years of my career. Still, no matter what kind of writing I’m doing, I frequently find…

In high school, I was granted the honor of delivering a graduation speech. It did not go as planned.

Image for post
Image for post

It was 1996, and I was class president at Clifton High School in suburban NJ. A theater geek and garage band musician (in other words, a spotlight hog), the idea of delivering the address thrilled me to the core. Weeks before graduation, I started writing.

I decided I wanted my speech to be authentic and light, not the usual “best years of our lives” cliché. So I wrote about the high school moments I’d truly miss — and the parts I…

Image for post
Image for post
House of Kenzo artists’ collective performs at the Fader Fort at SXSW 2016. Photo by Maria Dal Pan Dias

With its whirlwind of music, film, advertising and tech, this year’s SXSW festival personified the 2016 media landscape: Noisy.

Brands (and bands) battled for audience attention like cockroaches fighting for a piece of grease. Traveling between venues in the sweltering heat, you could easily reach max saturation, as marketers competed for shares, likes, demographic data and mind share.

It was, as they say, a lot.

But that’s not to say it wasn’t fun.

Over the past three decades, SXSW has become widely known as a way to glimpse the future of media and pop culture. It delivered. For nine days…

Maria Dal Pan

Writer, editor, collaborator and expert on visual language. Interested in working together? Find me at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store