I shared part of my story this past week to a small group of wonderful people. Usually I’m a bit uneasy sharing parts of myself because I’m not sure people care to know. But as I told the story I realized it’s important to me and speaks to where I am right now and the growth I’ve been through.
And all that anxiety about sharing my story was unneeded because it resonated with so many others who had similar experiences. And for me to put a voice to a similar story then have them nod their heads and respond with agreement helped us all accept we are journeying on different paths but with similar obstacles and experiences. Quite frankly, it gave me the confidence to share it here, hoping maybe it’ll help you either feel not so alone or help you avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made.
You see, I was a studio art minor in college. A minor because as a student athlete I couldn’t find the time to squeeze in the extra two classes I needed to make it a major. (For the curious – I was an international politics major). But I loved my art classes. I fell in love with charcoal and pen and ink and even found a love for pastels, though I tended towards monochromatic works. I felt like painting and sculpture were not a part of me though I did learn how to weld and use saws.
That was the 90s when I felt like all of my friends were landing great business jobs out of college. It became a norm to me as I went on interviews, talked to many people, and even tried our career center. No doubt, I let society speak to me and I began to believe that I needed to get a corporate job and make money so I could start working towards all the things that people normally do. Buy a car, buy a house, start a family etc. Or go to law school. So I found a job at an international corporation and started working but I was not happy.
I applied for a position at a local museum and looked into design but felt I didn’t have the skills and quite frankly I probably wasn’t qualified. So I let my artistic ways go and through the next 15 years I felt like I was constantly searching for where I belonged.
I was accepted to law school but as I pursued a second set of loans to live off the first year, I really began to question my why. And the amount of money I was about to pour into school, I couldn’t justify with my why. This moment I am proud of because it is something that has always driven me – my why needs to be big enough for me to pursue something.
I ended up teaching and coaching which I loved but still struggled to find fullness and joy from it. Then my husband and I took a leap of faith with the birth of our second child and I quit work. On paper it didn’t seem like it would work, but somehow it did. It was at this time I picked up photography and fell in love with the artistry of it. In time I grew a product photography business that began to include logos, branding and web design. (Scroll way back on my Instagram feed and you’ll see – by the way are we friends? If not I’d love to be!).
Fast forward a couple more years and it wasn’t until after having surgery and in the middle of radiation for thyroid cancer, that I heard an inner voice tell me to give it all up. It shocked me but I let it rest on my heart. And I thought I would give it a summer. That summer turned into 3 years as I helped my husband begin his own business. It was a time of service to my husband but also a time where the physical labor I was doing allowed my mind to roam and dream.
Then, I heard the inner voice again tell me it was time to quit work. With a heavy heart I told my husband. Heavy, because we actually enjoyed working together and I knew it would make it financially harder on us. But once again, somehow it worked.
As I acclimated to being at home again full time, I began drawing again. I found 20 year old art supplies left over from college and dived into creating. I took some classes, including a large course in Adobe Illustrator. And I began to realize something. Drawing and printmaking give me energy. They give me an energy that photography never did. I can’t wait each day and each week to pursue the projects that I’m inspired to create. I’ve found it difficult even to draw before bed because it energizes me so. With the combination of this new momentum of life and the love and passion I have for drawing and printmaking, along with my ever developing skills (because I know this will never end) I realized I have a gift.
It is a gift I’ve had for so long but neglected. And only because I believed the lies that I’d never make money with my art, that I really wasn’t very good, and that there was no purpose in it. So, I never pursued it.
I’m still faced with those lies at times – and others that seem to surface. And it takes work, my vision, and the occasional reminder from encouraging people to keep me on track.
In my story lies a lesson I learned and the wonderful people I was speaking with agreed on. We all saw similar pulls from society shape and mold our decisions rather than listening to our inner voice. However, we are all gifted, and gifted differently. Society will often want to put up barriers and expectations, and want us to follow along with what everyone else is doing. But it is in listening to our inner voice, to nurturing our gifts and not neglecting them that we become truly who we are, fulfilled. The result when you embrace your gifts and listen to your inner voice rather than the outside voices is beautiful and more fulfilling than anything else can be.
For fun I thought I’d include one of pieces from college.