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Remembering Jason Polan

Jason Polan and the ugly armchair he helped me move out of my East Village apartment.
(November 2008)

Jason Polan died a year ago today, and nothing’s been the same since. I left NYC in late February, two days after his memorial there, and haven’t been back—the pandemic hit shortly after. Sometimes my estrangement from home feels as permanent as the loss of Jason. So many of the best parts of my NYC life happened with him, for so many years.

A lot of Jason’s friends and collaborators have been creating amazing things in his honor over the past year. Everything Jason Polan is the burgeoning archive of his artwork. Dashwood Books is publishing a second volume of Every Person in New York. Uniqlo’s #worldsbiggestdrawingclub is encouraging countless people the world over to honor his memory by drawing, and I’m grateful for and dazzled by their continued commitment to honoring him. Today they released a new array of Jason gear and in support of the launch, Wilson Cameron produced a gorgeous video homage to him.

Hearing Jason’s voice in the video knocked me off my axis. I can still remember everything about Jason very clearly, but I’ve mostly avoided any video or audio of him. I recorded a podcast with him a few years back, and I really want to listen to it, but I just can’t yet. I’m guessing this might sound familiar to some of you. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that the contours of this sort of pain are not exactly foreign territory for many others. The weight of it and how we bear it connects us to each other.

I have learned a lot about grief over the last year, but there’s a single fact that stands out as the most important one of all: Grief is not a thing you go through, get over or move on from. Grieving is not a process of excising sadness or memory or pain, but rather one of weaving all of that back into yourself and figuring out how to survive. It often seems impossible, but another thing I’ve learned is that we humans are resilient.

Jason’s death exploded my heart, and it also expanded my world. I’d give it all back in a second to have him here again, but I’m so deeply grateful for the new people brought into my universe because we have the love and loss of Jason in common. I think he would be glad to know about the thrumming networks that have emerged from the shared grief of losing him. There’s so much generosity, comfort, support, creativity and pure love running through it.

-Jen Bekman, 20x200 founder and forever Jason friend

Zoo Baggu by Jason Polan

Polan Pack by Jason Polan

Long Neck Giraffe Keytag by Jason Polan