“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ”
– Pablo Picasso
Last May, I went to the Guggenheim, and I saw this exhibit. The exhibit featured art done by local NYC school children. For some reason, I felt called to really examine each grouping and each theme. The art was also tastefully done and still captured the whimsical, playful and thoughtful nature children have. There was a sense of pureness and energy that I was drawn to, and then all of a sudden I just started sobbing in the middle of the museum.
It was too much for me to handle. Looking back I was sobbing because my own creativity was never really nurtured over the last 20 years. There was an artist inside of me that was not truly being nurtured, and being in that museum thinking about all the creative development and nurturing that those kids all over New York were getting made me sad. I thought, “What if at an early age someone saw something in me? Where would my artistry have taken me by now?”
I look back at my childhood and I just see this creative and painfully shy kid. I had a weird sense of fashion with a penchant for wearing strangely printed patterned pants. And, I would spend hours in my room playing with my toys, drawing pictures and singing along to my Fisher Price record player. This “studio” of sorts was where I found peace and a sense of joy.
By the time I was in high school, the only creative outlet I had was my music. I didn’t really see the value in it at the time. I just thought being a musician for the most part came easy to me. Because I had nurturing and brilliant teachers, I was able to develop a sense of discipline and a curiosity for learning music.
Halfway through high school, I was sent to study under a university level music professor because my high school teachers taught me everything they could. Learning a difficult piece of music was like untangling a large knot. I would patiently and slowly work through the knots and eventually I could see the patterns in the compositions and I could begin to add in my own musical interpretation to the pieces. I had this incredible understanding and connection to music. For whatever reason after visiting a few conservatories and music programs during my junior year, I knew in my heart that the music had to stop. I felt this pressure from my parents and from society that I would have to find something else to do in college – get into medical school or dental school.
While I played for the Sherman Symphony in college, playing music just never had the same passion for me anymore. I learned that just because I am good at something doesn’t necessarily mean I should be doing it. People can change their minds and pursue other interests. And, once I achieve a certain level of success, I just eventually get bored very easily. I later learned that I am a scanner.
Luckily, I chose to go to a small liberal arts college where the curriculum pushed us to pursue various academic disciplines. I discovered I had an aptitude for literature and languages- interpreting texts, researching criticisms, and producing writing. I excelled in writing in both the academic and the creative realm. In college, I enjoyed discovering my proclivity towards languages, communication, and the interpretation and re-invention of ideas and stories. I have this fascination for learning. And not just for learning to get the best grade, but learning really as a process and as a discipline.
While I studied all the required classes to be prepared for medical or dental school, I decided to concentrate my studies on getting a degree in English literature and minoring in Biology. I figured this is it for me. Once I leave undergrad, the real world (aka society, my parents, etc.) wanted me to become a doctor.
I remember it being my last semester at Austin College. One of my English professors who I respected very much asked me, “When are you going to realize that you don’t belong in the medical field? You are a creative person. You have so much talent. You could be a writer or an artist. Nicole, you just look at this world so much differently than any of those boring people running off to med school. You have so much more to contribute than trying to be a doctor.”
I wish this professor kidnapped me and hypnotized me and told me to just stop. I spent a career being a shadow artist. Unfortunately, it took reading “The Artist’s Way” six times before I had the courage to re-navigate my passion towards a new career. As I mentioned before, Julia Cameron helped me uncover this inner artist child that I stuffed away for so many years.
Now that I am living in Guatemala and creating a small business teaching yoga, art, and mindfulness, I don’t regret the winding turns as much. Maybe I needed to take the circuitous route? Maybe I needed to go to art school in my 30s? Maybe I needed to try out being a yoga teacher while I was still working in cubicle land? Maybe just taking a part time photography class was all I needed? Or maybe starting a blog that nobody knew about what enough? Perhaps I just needed to spend more time in my art studio after work? Who knows why?
With less stress and less resentment, I can be grateful for the lessons I learned during my successful career in nonprofit management, fundraising, and event planning and during the years I tried starting a small yoga + art business part-time. When you are able to confidently claim who you truly are and to be at peace with being a creative person, you’d be amazed how life can change for you.
Do you spend time connecting with the things you loved doing as a child? Spend some time today seeing what your inner interests are and taking the time to please your inner artist child.