Dad wanted me to be an engineer. “That’s a good field for women!” Bleh. No, I was going to be an artist. I knew that when I was 12. I remember the moment I knew that too. I was in 6th grade, and had one of Mom’s women’s magazines with a painting of a Breck girl on the back cover which I was trying to draw on a piece of lined notebook paper. An older boy, almost a man, came to visit my teacher and I hovered around the edges and heard them discussing the boy’s studies in commercial art in high school. I knew I wanted to take commercial art too. My destiny was in motion.
That was the year I had to take an aptitude test, and the teachers decided that I should become a scientist. “Science is a great career for a woman!” No. A-R-T-I-S-T. I think the teachers were weeping in the smoking lounge while I was at recess because some great scientific discovery was being lost by my silly career plans. I had variations of these discussions with various adults up to and through the high school commercial art program. “Art is a great hobby, but you won’t make any money!” “Illustrators are a dime a dozen!” Too bad, leave me alone. I have focus. The adults left me alone after I got a scholarship to college.
Today I saw “suspend” as the word for the week, and a string of dangling, suspended things passed through my mind before it finally occurred to me that what’s hanging in a state of suspension is me. I don’t have the focus of a 12-year-old any more. I’ve been mistreated by the career of my choice too many times to feel exuberance and love for it. It’s like marrying an alcoholic husband whom I somehow can’t seem to leave. I think I’m at the “let’s be friends” stage of my art relationship, but art is how I’ve paid the bills, so it’s kind of hard to really end the relationship.
I’m kidding myself anyway. I went to a Rembrandt exhibit a while ago and had sweaty palms and heart palpitations in his presence, so I can’t really get over my art obsession. I just don’t know what I want to do with that obsession any more. Rembrandt lived through it himself. He was popular and rich, blew it all, his style fell out of favor, and then he had to rebuild himself. Life is tough for artists. Do I still have time to become a scientist or engineer?
I recently took a PT job which both uses, and doesn’t use, my acquired skills in the field. I’m feeling mixed about this, especially since the job is for a religious organization. (If God led me to this job, it’s proof that God has a really wacked sense of humor!) The job is close to home and a pretty environment. My boss and coworkers are grownups and know their jobs. All in all, it’s a pleasant way to pay the bare essential bills while theoretically giving me time to pursue my art addiction on the side. I’m a bit undecided if I’m just suspending my state of suspension, or maybe this is the best of all worlds? It’s cutting into my personal blog time, but I guess I can’t have everything.
But if I had to do it again? Yeah, I’d pick art – even though I did my best to talk my niece out of following in my footsteps. “Don’t you have any other talents?!” I found myself repeating all that stuff I didn’t listen to when adults were telling me to go into a different field. It’s too late for that niece now, and I guess for me too. She’s in college and happily showed me a package design she made at school when she visited last weekend. I swear, art is a genetic defect, but it’s great work when you find it!