I’m so tired of hearing, “It’s so nice that you have hobbies to keep you occupied,” when referring to my artwork and photography, as if I’m not a serious artist. From an early age — like by 2nd grade — I knew that art was very important to me. By high school I knew I wanted art to be part of my career choice. My first semester of college, I majored in the Fine Arts. After that first semester, I’m not really sure what possessed me to change my major to Early Childhood Education and switch colleges entirely. No, I take that back. It was fear that caused me to switch. Fear that I wouldn’t survive as an artist. Fear that I couldn’t support myself in a career that most were telling me was a “lofty” choice of professions. I chose a safer route, a preschool teacher. That didn’t pay much, but I knew preschool teachers would always be in demand. At least I was able to play art teacher with the little ones who seemed to love art as much as I did. Art time was always my favorite lesson to prepare.
Then, life happened. My life quickly spun out of control due to my mental illness as I struggled to maintain my sanity. In ’99 I went back to college, majoring in Graphic Design. By my 3rd semester, I knew I hated graphic design and everything that had to do with advertising. Boring! My idea of fun is not sitting in a cubicle all day working at a computer doing the same repetitive work over and over again. Mind–numbingly–BORING! One of my professors even told me I needed to change my major over to the fine arts degree. I wish I had. I might have actually finished. But I didn’t. I let those same fears take over in 2002 that I had in 1990. I was so disappointed in myself because I never finished my degree — any degree.
Now, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I need to be able to financially support myself or at least help KR support us. I’ve never been able to do that with any level of continuity or to a degree that gives me security and peace of mind. Quite frankly, I never believed in myself enough to think I could accomplish a goal that was so important to me. Other people treated my artistic talent as a novelty, something good enough for a hobby, but “How are you going to support yourself doing that?” kind of thing. There hasn’t been much encouragement along the way.
Maybe this is why I take such offense to demands on my time. I had a very loose plan, goals that I created for myself several years ago after I was approved for Social Security Disability. My plan was to use that time while I received SSD to create a body of work while networking with other artists and learning the tools of the trade online to see what options were available for selling my artwork and what types of items were in demand. How could I best use my talent? The internet is a god send for people like me. It makes the world a much smaller place, and there are so many resources online to make this type of vision a reality.
Enter the self-doubt… the discouragement… the distractions… Between constantly getting sidetracked and those same fears that kept me frozen, this dream of self-sufficiency and respect for my chosen profession felt (feels) like a long shot. Everybody and their great-uncle will tell you what you should be doing; but it’s pretty rare for someone to actually listen and understand that it takes time, courage, a lot of effort, and patience to carve out one’s own path, especially when that person is dealing with a mental illness.
I’ll die trying… or I’ll do nothing at all.
And that is the true testament of an artist’s spirit.