Friday, December 14, 2012

One Door Closes, Another Opens

I'm sitting in an empty house this evening. It was a pretty big day, but it feels anti-climactic at the moment as my partner in crime is out of town for the day. Today was my last official day of class (and coincidentally, was also the first day my loan repayments begin on that same education). Was it worth it? Time will tell. At the moment, I feel drained of everything: energy, creativity, thought - all life, really. I want to believe that this has all been worthwhile and that only good things will come from the experience. I am not nearly as naive (despite what some may think) as I once was, and know that education doesn't necessarily equate to a better life, more money, or a better occupation. My foray into this round of school had nothing to do with monetary gains, however. I was (and still am) in need of a change of direction, and while others may see it as a waste of time and money, I do think this experience has taught me to stand up for myself, to believe in what I'm doing (even if no one else does), and to be willing to accept constructive criticism - taking from it items that will help me grow and become a better person.
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I cannot help but think back to my first round of college just after high school. I was so excited about the possibilities. The world seemed open and exciting. At that point, I thought I would become a writer (yes, despite all of my horrible grammar, I believed I had some sort of "calling" to write). My family discouraged it because they said I had to have something to write about and that I hadn't experienced enough of life to be a good writer. Maybe they were right; maybe they were wrong - but I suppose it doesn't really matter as that facet of my life never really took hold. At that point in time, I took to heart everything and anything those older than me were saying. I'm sure they never realized how there thoughts were forming and morphing what I believed to be possible. When I expressed any interest in the arts it was discouraged. I recall telling my parents that I wanted to go to art school while I was still in high school, and they just shrugged it off, telling me that I'd go to a community college first and figure out what I 'really want to do' with my life. I didn't figure it out then, and honestly, I'm not sure I have it figured out now either.
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I now (okay, not now, but in a few weeks as there is always a delay with degree dissemination) hold in my possession a piece of paper, supposedly "proving" that I am capable and competent in a subject matter - specifically, painting. Do I feel competent? No. Do I feel capable? Maybe, depending on the day. How exactly does an institution of learning decide that one person has what it takes to be an artist? During my time at my chosen university, I've realized that no one can tell a person s/he is an artist. They can discuss formal elements, history, design, various aesthetic likes/dislikes, color palette, and so on, but there are many artists who follow none of the rules, and yet somehow "make it" in their chosen profession (don't get me started on rules in art either because that idea seems so ridiculous to me - really an oxymoron in many respects).

Will I make it? I suppose it depends on how one defines "making it." I won't ever be famous, nor do I desire to be, but I believe in some sense just having the freedom to pursue a creative career is a form of success. I've had opportunities presented without seeking them, even before finishing my education. I feel fortunate to have met folks who have pointed out opportunities, or advised me to stay away from a certain venue. These relationships are invaluable, especially for a creative person who basically spends her time alone in a 10x12 room, trying to formulate a visual representation of ideas that often want to come out in words rather than pictures.

Recently, I had a meltdown at my neighbors' house. I'd gone over to drop something off and ended up crying in their dining room because they asked how everything was going. "I don't know if I can do this," came blubbering out of my mouth, which was followed by an apology for having a breakdown for seemingly no reason. The reality is, being an artist isn't easy. No one can tell me that I'm doing it right or wrong. The individual may like or not like a particular piece, but that doesn't make it bad (okay, sometimes it does mean it's bad - but not always). Unlike my former occupation(s), there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer, there isn't a singular way to pursue this career, and there is no formula to determine the correct path. There may even be multiple paths - at the same time - and no one can say with certainty what is waiting at the end of each of those forks in the road. In many ways, that is the beauty of this sort of career. I have the opportunity to check out a multitude of various paths and see where they take me. It's also the scary part of this career because there may be more paths to failure than success.

Although I'm tentative about what is to come, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to finish out this degree that was a long time in the making. I may not feel ready to be out on my own, or believe that the world is my oyster as I did in my early 20s, but there is hope for my future in this field - at least in some form. Like my writing, my artwork certainly isn't the best, and no one is beating down my door to see what I will come up with for my next project, but I have nothing but time - and unlike a "real" job, it's all just practice.  And the best part... I can't be fired. I wait with excitement and anticipation for what is to come.

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations on surviving school!

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  2. This has certainly been a journey for you, filled with good and bad. I think that the process improved your skills in a way I did not expect, but I can say equally bad things about the "system" at the same time. I'm excited to see what is next. Freedom!

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    1. Glad be done, definitely. We will see where it goes from here.

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  3. Congratulations on your art degree. I studied ceramics as an undergrad and went on to get a graduate degree in art therapy. I learned a lot about myself in art school and overcame many self-doubts about myself as an artist. Now, 20 years later, I'm back in school getting my Masters in Social Work. I've got a year and a half to go and really want to get it done tomorrow. Nonetheless, I needed to return to school after a career setback that followed a move to a small town with few opportunities. I got pigeonholed in a dead end job outside of my career and my attempts to contribute and grow within the organization were brushed off. Don't let anyone else define you as an artist or with respect to what you can accomplish. I am seeing a lot of you people taking some prety interesting risk - most don't have anything to lose professionally in this economy so they seem to be just going for it. I admire their fearlessness. Best of luck.

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    1. Thanks so much! I think returning to school for a second time can bring both the positive and negative - but I suppose that's true with almost anything in life.

      Your advice to not let anyone else define me is a lesson I'm trying my best to learn right at this moment. I'm taking some time to decompress and just figure out where I want to go, and honestly - just be true to myself and who I am. :O)

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