Why I Didn't Want to Be an Artist
When I was little, my parents tell me, people would ask introduce themselves to me. When they asked for my name, I would say, "I am an artist." Not "I want to become an artist when I grow up" but "I am an artist." I was maybe 4.
Like any kid, I couldn't differentiate dreams from reality, serious from play. I used to deck myself out in my full-length spandex batman costume (meant for halloween only) and then pull the covers up to my neck, so as not to blow my cover. My mom would come tuck me in and remark on how good I was for already being in bed (there's always a fishy reason for "perfect" behavior.). After she left, I would play into the wee hours of the morning.
On the good nights, I'd sneak out and muck around.
See, as a child, living out your dreams is a pure itch, an impulse to act.
Fast forward to high school. For the first two years, I nearly failed every class – except my art and music classes, of course. I clowned around in the other classes. Now looking back, I realize undiagnosed ADHD could have been the cause. Hyper focus in areas of interest – chaotic or poor focus and behavior elsewhere. I applied for ONE school, and it was one of the top art schools in the nation: Maryland Institute College of Art, or MICA.
I got in for one reason:
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
I was always the "talent" part of that, only working as hard as I needed to to get by. In art school, I lowered that bar to within scraping bottom of the bare minimum.
So what happened?
It all caught up with me, that's what happened. The lack of consistent effort, not writing out plans of action based on my dreams, the antisocial tendencies removing any potential networking I could have been doing.
So I waited.
I waited tables.
I waited for notoriety (from where?)
I waited for a sign or permission or a kick in the ass. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. But I certainly was not creating my dreams in real life.
The truth is that I didin't want to be an artist. I thought I could simply turn that off. I thought that I could settle for contentedness in my hobbies of rock climbing and long distance unicycling. In dating and reading books and the like. I might've told someone that "I'm taking my time with it" or that "I'm figuring it out."
I wasn't. I was avoiding my dreams. Because what they DON'T tell you out there, in the land of quotes and hope, is this:
Dreams don't just feel good.
Dreams hurt as they come to life.
Dreams are much like giving birth – in theory, every pain of labor is worth it, maybe even twofold or tenfold, in the potential life that you turn into human form.
So I wish, 11 years after graduating from art school, that I could report that I am well settled into my career. That I know what I'm doing and that I do it consistently.
But I can't offer you that moral. I can't offer you advice on how to turn your individual dream into reality. I can't do that because it has been only just possible for me myself to see my own path. It's not something you can read in a book or advice blog. It's your life, and how you choose to wrestle it – or (try to) opt out of the fight.
I will offer you this nugget, though:
We feel dreams move through us, as if from beyond. That's why it's easy to dismiss them, or keep them detached from the hard work of real life. It's easier to keep them as dreams, ideas of pure potential. That feels hopeful. And as a kid, all those dreams do feel hopeful, and you can't truly act on them yet. But each year that goes by, your real body knows the difference. It knows how much you've learned in life and how much or little of that knowledge you've applied. It knows how much or how little you've brought your ideas to life. How much or little you've spoken from your potential.
And for how much you haven't, it feels like regret, sadness, defeated heaviness. Excuses crop up like weeds; some seem valid.
And for how much you have worked towards your ideas, even if it's just a little, it feels like a hopeful battle, like a "better than nothing," like these little efforts and wins make up for all the painful and pointless crap.
It begins to feel like the story of your individual life is actually worth something.