Change is necessary,
Change is scary.
As an artist, I sometimes feel like I’m not allowed to change my style or alter my artistic output too drastically. Do you ever feel that way? As though you can’t evolve from who you are right now because maybe the changes will leave others questioning what you’re doing or why you’re doing it? Your identity ends up being questioned in a way that you feel uncomfortable with, or we assume as much anyway. It is quite foolish, I admit, to withhold change out of fear - this fear that I might disappoint others or perhaps lose them in my life all together.
Then again, this worry has no place in my life, and it has no place in yours either.
Yet, this fear tends to linger in the back of my mind and has me questioning myself on a daily basis.
The big what ifs.
What if I change and the whole world hates it?
What if I just actually suck?
what if what if what if...
These heavy what ifs sometimes make me contemplate throwing in the towel.
They’ll just move on from me and find something else. Something (someone) better.
Eventually (thankfully) I realized that this fear was rooted in the judgments of other people and not what I needed as an artist to feel fulfilled in my daily attempts to express myself. Fear should not hold me back from transforming into new versions of myself. I know deep down what I’m capable of and the sense of urgency I feel to try new things all of the time. I should not be making assumptions and pre-judging myself for others. That’s where the trouble rests, dormant until I throw some dirty paint water mixed with insecurity in its face.
Now, what changed my mind (finally)? Another artist.
It took going to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit in Toronto to boost my confidence and reassure myself that change is good. Georgia, my fairy godmother, whispering in my ear as I glided through her eccentric exhibition. She gave me permission to evolve. I needed a female artist to stir the pot, to push me in a new direction, because I (insanely) saw myself in her (work). From all the landscapes to cityscapes, bones to flowers, sunrise to sunset, her career fearlessly evolved over the span of her lifetime and it would not have been the same had she simply painted the same mountain over and over again.
Looking at the work of an artist over his or her lifetime puts everything in perspective. There is a lifelong devotion to their craft that is inspiring and the commitment to themselves as artists, to follow their heart and not the audience. They knew their vision was bigger than themselves.
They were/are not one dimensional and for some reason this woke me up: I am more than the abstract artist I am right now. Tomorrow I will plant new seeds, they'll take root and grow into next year. Next year I will be different.
Don't allow fear, assumptions, and judgment hinder your growth.
Embrace change, assume less.
Common sense, right?
The truth is, most days I feel like a fraud, an imposter in the world of creativity, a real phony, and there is nothing I despise more than a lack of authenticity. Holden Caulfield would hate me. Sometimes I think I’ve shown up to the party uninvited and keep ducking behind corners, hiding in shadows and behind masks in order to remain undetected. I don’t want my cover to be blown! I really do like this little artsy party. I belong here, right?
I don’t like that I feel like a fake most days because I’m certain that it prevents me from ever really accepting any accomplishment as authentic and worth celebrating. I felt the same way in academia. I swear I tricked my professors into giving me good grades and those three degrees on my wall, total fluke! And the teaching job I’m about to commence in the fall? Witchcraft! Unfortunately, the excitement that accompanies each new conquest quickly vanishes the second my mind considers and questions my worthiness of them. Did I deserve that opportunity? I’m sure there are so many more qualified artists and educators out there who should be standing on the small platform I currently occupy. Sometimes I feel the urge to jump off and make space for those who lack phoniness and possess real talent. Then again, I like my little space I’ve carved out and I should very much like to stay here.
Do you ever feel like that as well? I don’t think I’m the only one.
It’s a vicious cycle whose frequency has thankfully diminished, replaced by more positive thinking. I’m obsessed with the happiness advantage and addicted to all of the benefits that come with a positive growth mindset. The main advantage being I’m now a little more comfortable accepting good things when they come. The road to happiness is not so hard to find after all, as long as our pursuit for success isn’t rooted in finding happiness attached to said success. Happiness comes before any reward, not the other way around. Crazy concept, I know, but it’s the truth. I’ve placed my faith in positive thinking and haven’t looked back. I know it sounds like I’m contradicting myself as I often question why and how I am standing here right now, but those questions lead to answers that confirm that my existence and my purpose in the world of art and education is no fluke. Every moment in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, have placed me here and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.
I so much want everyone to feel that way as well. I want you to feel like you’re enough the way that you are, that you have purpose even if you feel as though you haven’t found it yet, that your life is worth living to the fullest. This is all coming from a genuine place. Hopefully I don’t sound trite, but seize your day before there are no days left. Get up with the sun and bask in its glory, tell your family and friends you love them, cuddle your cat or dog (or stuffed animal), work hard on your passion projects, don’t sweat the small stuff. I fear too many of us wait for tragedy to enter our circle of life before we reflect and make a change. You don’t need death to remind you that your heart is beating and your lungs are breathing.
Don’t wait for a new month or a new year.
Don’t put it off until tomorrow.
What are you doing today?
Today is what matters.
Being happy in this moment.
Not caught up in the what ifs of the unknown.