I’ve been going through a lot of personal changes in my life the past few weeks. Most notably, I stepped away from being a full time artist. The reason for this is quite simple: I’m not getting any younger.
Being a “starving artist” when you’re in your twenties can be an enriching experience…even when it totally sucks…and it can and will suck. You express every emotion and experience through your creative impulses. You get an automatic pass for not having a lot of material resources (read: money) at your disposal. You rationalize that you are so dedicated to your craft that you are willing to sacrifice everything (time, energy, comfort, health, sanity) for the sake of your work. And no worries, when you become established, whatever the fuck THAT means, and you’re receiving checks with all those zeroes and everyone is telling you how brilliant you are (despite the fact that they have absolutely no clue what you’re on about) it will all be worth that sacrifice.
When you tell people what you do, they respond with “Wow! Cool? What’s that like? What are you working on now? Can I see something? Etc.” Why? Because you’re *trumpet fanfare (self-composed, of course)* AN ARTIST. You are the physical manifestation of something everyone secretly wishes they could be but don’t have the time and/or courage to pursue themselves. People view you as cool, crazy, quirky, dedicated, passionate, ambitious.
Cut to your thirties. If you’re and lucky and you really have been honing your craft as much as you said you were, then you find yourself getting some pretty cool gigs. Even some high-profile ones. EVEN some that pay well. Aww, shit! You’re doing it! You’re on your way. People are starting to take you and your work seriously. Just keep plugging away and fame and fortune are just around the corner right? Right?! Well…
Those awesome gigs truly are awesome…when you get them. Unfortunately that’s not frequent enough to be considered steady income by any stretch of the imagination. You spend more time teaching to make ends meet. But you’re not a teacher, you’re a DOER, right? So this is only temporary…right?
Now you’re damn near forty. You don’t regret being an artist. But your feelings for your chosen profession aren’t nearly as romantic as they once were. You’re starting to think about your art like a drug addiction. It used to be loads of fun. Your muse for the colors and sounds of the bohemian life. Now you have to keep doing it just to feel normal. And what is normal? Do you even know? Did you ever? Also, it’s exhausting keeping up the facade of everything is okay as it is. So…
You take a step back and evaluate your life. You look at where you started and where you are now. You try to objectively evaluate that current trajectory and plot what sort of future it will bring if nothing changes. It’s not exactly pretty…it damn sure ain’t cute. Being this broke at forty is not glamorous. It’s not bohemian. It’s disappointing and a bit sad.
So what are you going to do?
I’ll tell you. There are certain qualities and skills being a full time artist for that long will earn.
- the ability to deliver under extreme pressure and with a very limited budget
- the ability to charm a room full of people (many of whom with more money than you’ve ever seen at once) into hanging on your every word and action.
You also have the knowledge that your life and destiny is your own. You have the wisdom of knowing what you want. And best of all…you’ve established your quote!
Take stock of all the tools in your toolbox, all the colors on your palette, all the secret weapons in your arsenal. You can now recreate yourself into the you that you need to be. You just have to give yourself credit for weathering the storm, taking the punches and surviving. Once you realize that you can come out of your rocky, bohemian past with head held high and still fabulous, you know that you can do anything! NOW GO KICK SOME ASS!!!!
Inner voice: Okay, that was nice troop-rallying…but what now? No one wants to hire me for a “real job” with all of this artsy shit on my resume.
I have been looking for work for many weeks now and have run into just this problem. I even sent my resume to be critiqued. And the one thing that I learned from that critique is, at this stage of my life, I can no longer continue on the path of “I want, I need, please give me.” Instead, I must step forward with “I now have, I have done, I deserve.”
It’s a seemingly simple mind shift but a very important one. Once you allow yourself a moment to appreciate what you have already accomplished, you have a better perspective of your worth.
All this to say…I don’t know exactly what is next. But it’s gonna be big and as long as I remember my training, I will be ready.