Dreaming Out Loud

TEDxTalks: Art therapy: changing lives, one image at a time: Cathy Malchiodi at TEDxOverlandPark

I wish I had thought of becoming an art therapist early on in my college education. I truly see the value in using art as a means to promote healing and recovery. I know the thought of art therapy as a profession crossed my mind a few times in the past; but until now, I hadn’t given it serious consideration. Honestly, in my entire 41 years, I struggled to decide exactly what I wanted my profession to be. There were too many choices, too many things I found interesting – too many possibilities; so I couldn’t decide. And I ended up doing nothing as a result. I’ve had no lasting career of any kind.

My first semester of college, straight out of high school, I majored in art because I knew I had the passion for it. Drawing, painting, sculpting – simply creating and seeing the final piece completed gave me a sense of accomplishment that made the effort seem worthwhile. At some point during that first semester, though, I began second-guessing my major. I think it was the result of so many people telling me, “There’s no money in that,” or “That’s not a ‘real’ career,” or “You need to be more practical,” because in rural TN art wasn’t exactly seen as anything more than a mere hobby. Why waste a perfectly good college education on something so meaningless (in their minds)?

When I transferred to a college closer to home after that first semester away (partially due to expense, but more so due to homesickness), I relented and changed my major to early childhood education. I never finished my associates degree. I managed to get through the first 3 semesters before my ex-husband and I moved to Hawaii after he enlisted in the army. When I finally went back to college 7 years later, I changed my major back to art, specifically graphic design. I loved my art classes – hated my graphic design classes. One of my art professors told me I should get my degree in fine arts rather than graphic design; but still, that little voice in the back of my head said, “No, there’s no future in that.” I never finished my bachelor’s degree, either.

Now, I look at all of that college coursework I completed and wonder, “What was it all for?” I’m still just as far in debt as I was the day I left college, even more now than then. Due to my mental health issues, there have been a lot of deferment and forbearance periods since that time which incurred a large amount of interest fees. The thousands of dollars I have given Sallie Mae over the years has made no difference in the amount I owe. This last forbearance ran out this past November. I worry that I will be in default soon, if not already, since I still have no way to pay back the money I owe. I’m drowning in that debt.

And this is my problem when I begin to dream of a future. I see a goal I would like to accomplish, but the obstacles feel insurmountable. Past failures remind me that future dreams are just that – dreams – silly childish dreams. The reality of my situation is that mental illness still blocks my path, and I fear I’m running out of time to accomplish anything at all.



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