An artist’s struggle with expectations

For years, my creative self was trapped inside the body of someone who spent their time chasing a more “sensible” life. Ever since high school I had been interested in writing and painting but left it behind to follow a path I didn’t really want to go down. I moved to because being here inspired me to explore and build my artistic abilities but deep down inside I was also running from the pressures of where I was expected to be as a thirty-something-year-old woman.

In school, my artwork was always praised by my art teacher and he believed in me so much that he pushed to a higher standard than most of his other students and eventually submitted my work for different contest, one was selected to hang in our county’s school superintendent’s building. I wrote poetry before I even started painting and my work was selected as apart of a published compilation of poems. When I left high school I wanted to attend college to study art but doubt of that not being a “stable and consistent” profession influenced me to study the only other thing on earth that interested me at the time, Criminal Justice.

Fast forward a decade and a half and a hand full of jobs covering different sectors later, here I am, back where I should’ve been all along: exploring and improving my painting and writing abilities. Although I didn’t go to school for it and, prior to starting an internship at the sole English language publication in Berlin, I had no tangible experience to show for it, I wanted to follow my heart instead of a hunger in my pockets. But as much as my heart wanted it, my brain didn’t truly see me getting past a girl who used to paint in high school.

After I arrived, when I should’ve been getting art supplies and seeking out workshops, I realized I wasn’t taking myself seriously. I thought, ‘People like my writing, people like my paintings, but without a fancy degree, apprenticeship or large portfolio, will that translate outside of my inner circle?’ There are many successful people without professional training whose raw talent alone afforded them opportunities, but did I have what it took to be one of those people?

What if I had taken a risk only to be knocked down even further than where I started? Not only were there these expectations about where I was supposed to be professionally at this point in my life but also personal achievements I was supposed to have. I did want a family, a healthy relationship, a house to call home and the ability to travel or buy whatever I wanted without having to stress about whether I could sell enough art to do it. What if I end up spending the next two, five or ten years trying to establish myself as an artist that I miss out the opportunity to have a family?

Then someone said to me, “Right now is the youngest you’re ever going to be.” While I wish I had done things differently two, five or ten years ago, the only thing I can control is what I do right now. I could let fear and uncertainty push me back to my old life. I could find some office job with benefits and a regular schedule and go to happy hour every other day and take up painting classes on the weekends. Then I could find some nice guy to settle down with that covers maybe 75% of the things I actually want in a partner. But that wouldn’t make me happy and I’ve spent enough time settling for this idea of what I “should be doing”.

There comes a moment in one’s life where they look back and think about all of the things they would change and make a promise to themselves that things will be different in the future, whether it’s about career choices, the partners they chose to date, how they treat people, how they treat themselves or how they utilize their time. Although it would’ve been nice to have followed my heart all along, if I did, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. A person who has lived a lot, loved a lot and learned a lot.

If I doubt myself now, I can’t imagine what kind of nervous wreck I would’ve been at 18. I now have the self assuredness that I didn’t have ten, five or even two years ago. I stopped caring (as much) about what people thought about me, I realized that I don’t want to put off what I could do now until later and that life is unpredictable but it should be a beautiful, challenging and fulfilling ride. It doesn’t have a roadmap, there’s no directions at all and no two paths will be the same.

In life, you may (or not) be able to have it all but what’s important is to focus your efforts on the goals that are important to you, whatever they may be, no matter how unattainable or difficult they may seem to achieve. Being creative is important to me. I can’t say what the future will hold but I would rather be doing something that makes me proud, something tangible that I can hold in my hands and say that I created, something that can last long after I’m gone and am no longer here to stress over things I can’t control.

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