What are you?
(this is a reprint of a post made on my wordpress.com blog dated February 22, 2012)
Back when I was first in college, my chosen major was art. I was excited about it. The year before, I had “fallen in love” and was still with that same boy – whose opinion of art majors was that “it isn’t practical”. I wasn’t sure what “practical” had to do with it. “The only artists who ever made any money did after they were dead” was his declaration.
Being a person who is visual to a very high level, I tend to be moronic about verbal cues thrown at me. I am very literal about words, they mean what they mean, no more no less. It is something that can make me incredibly gullible (especially if I only hear or read words and cannot see someone’s face while they’re talking for clues) and at times I can seem to have no sense of humor. Why did the chicken cross the road? Don’t know. Did someone let it out of the coop? But I digress. If I’m an art major I will die impoverished.
Faced with “the declaration” – I now doubted my choice; perhaps my chosen major wasn’t wise. The end of the story is – I changed my major after that five times during college – ending my college career with a BA in Psychology. And all that studying about how to understand the human condition didn’t help me understand why the drive to create never went away, no matter how hard I tried to suppress it. And that great “practical” college degree never helped me earn more than an average hourly wage of about $12 an hour…at a succession of unfulfilling jobs working for other people.
I know. Being an artist will not help me “make a living” any more than my eye color will. I have to have supplemental learning, luck, acclaim, popularity, skill, the support of others and the universe all – all, for that to happen. At this time in my life I don’t have to “do” one thing to make money so that I can be myself, and “do” sculpting. I am lucky enough to be married to someone who loves me and encourages me endlessly and is happy to work and keep our finances on track – all so that I can be who and what I am. I am lucky and blessed, and thankful. Many of us are not so lucky or blessed, but we still work at our creative endeavors because we can’t help it.
Isn’t that a powerful thing to know? We cannot help that this is what we are. It is simply a state of be-ing that cannot be chosen because it chooses the person where it will reside. And then in our lives we are whispered to, or sometimes shouted at, by the drive to create, bored of anything else if it isn’t somehow creative. Back when my major was chosen, I didn’t know this. That this is what I am – just as much as that color is the color of my eyes. And neither can any other creative person help it, suppress it, or ignore it. I didn’t know that being an artist is not a career choice or an endeavor that one chooses as a way to earn money. Our goals and our drive may be success and making money too. But at the heart of that wish to be famous or wealthy is really the desire for vindication in society (where very often others choose to see us as odd or foolish), that we are OF VALUE.
And just look at what we “do”! Some of us write, or make music, or dance. We are painters, or glass blowers, we throw pottery, or weave, take photographs or, like me, sculpt. People who do not have this in their DNA or have it only somewhat do not understand “it” to be “normal”. What if not having it isn’t “normal”? We are every bit as important to society’s health and happiness and advancement as people who chose more traditional money making careers, in many instances – it could be argued – more so. So why the bias? I don’t know the answer to that.
But next time someone asks me “what do you do?” – I’m going to say “sculpture”. And if they say then, “Oh, you’re an artist…hmmm?” than I may very likely say, “Well, yes. Who and what are you?”