When I was young, in elementary school, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to paint and draw because that’s all I wanted to do in my free time. I wanted to go to college in Chicago and be an artist. At the time I had no idea what that really meant or what I would have to do to get there, I just knew that I hated going to school and my only solace was art class. So I just wanted art class to be my world.
Sometime in middle school I discovered I didn’t really have the hand of an artist. To be honest I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if some bully told me I had no talent or if something happened, or if I witnessed someone who really did have talent and felt I couldn’t compete (I don’t like competition, but that’s another post). Something happened and all I remember is walking out of some store crossing the parking lot telling my mom that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. A very serious conversation for a twelve year old.
So I distanced myself from being an artist. I ran smack into the world of politics. I realized I was smart and quick and had no fear of being told “no” because that just fueled my fire. By the time I was entering college I was going to save the world. I was going to join the Peace Corps. Maybe I’d live up to the expectations and be president.
Five years later I joined the Peace Corps.
Six years later and it was over.
I’ve basically done everything that I wanted to do (minus the whole President thing, though every time I watch West Wing I think about it…). So there should be a part of me that feels totally liberated to breathe and live freely. After all, I’m 24, single, with nothing but time. Thanks to a wonderful family I have no pressure to do anything but make myself happy.
Now when people ask me what I want to do with the rest of my life I kind of stare at them disillusioned.
What DO I want to do?
The best career advice I ever got came from a seminar of sorts I went to while at NYU. The woman asked us what we wanted to be when we were young. Surprisingly everyone there—all struggling twenty somethings—smiled thinking about their years dreaming of being fireman, ice skaters, and the ice cream man. This one particular guy literally laughed out loud. The woman leading the group asked him what he was thinking about. He said that when he was younger he wanted to be Peter Pan. She then smiled and asked him what he was at NYU majoring in. Turns out he was an actor. Better than that, he was recently cast to play Peter Pan that spring.
So wishes really do come true.
The point of that exercise was that when we are young we don’t have pressure, or knowledge of money, power, or celebrity. What we want to do is based on something we like, something we admire, something we connect to.
That brought me back to my days of wanted to be an artist. That was two years before I declared an art history major, something that I still claim to be the best decision ever.
And here I sit. I managed to do both, major in art history and be in the Peace Corps. Yet the question of what I will do when I “grow up” still burns.
So then people ask you “What would you do if money weren’tan issue?”
This question bothers me for one big reason. Money IS an issue. But I get the point. I want to do something I love. I want to enjoy my work. I want to succeed. I want to flourish in a career that makes me a better person.
And to be brutally honest, my answer to that question is never a hard one to come up with. It’s actually pretty simple.
Someday I’d like to live around creative people who believe in the power of art to change the world we live. I want to change the way people view themselves and the world around them. This is truly an amazing world with beauty seeping from all around and no matter how clichéd or naïve it may sound, that’s what I believe. I also think we’d all be a little happier if more people enjoyed it all. So, that’s my goal. That’s my dream.
It’s not as black and white as wanting to go to law school to save the world. Some would say the arts is a recreation enjoyed by the wealthy, and that all this fashion and interior design and event planning is not capable of changing the world. That is doesn’t matter. That one shouldn’t judge or view image as important, and perhaps there is a point in there somewhere.
But I still disagree.
And like I said before. There’s been a lot of years and life between that young girl who wanted to be an artist and me here wanting to be a creative—a lot of lessons learned and memories made. And I did say nothing fuels my fire like being told I’m crazy. This certainly isn’t the first time.
So here I go. Starting 2013 with a desire to merge everything I love into my future. It’s going to be complicated and layered and probably messy. I’ll second guess myself and think I’m not doing enough.
Yet. Then again. That kind of sounds marvelous.