I should be in therapy.
I'm actually an artist by mistake.
Some of you already know this story, so forgive me if you know how this song goes. But here's a confession for those of you who don't: I have no formal training as an artist. I'm self-taught and kind of stumbling and figuring it out as I go along. I'd never even picked up a paintbrush before three years ago. But to tell the story, I need to go to 2012.
I'd quit my day job of a copywriter to pursue the dream of being a therapist because I wanted a career where I was actually helping people. But shortly after I started grad school, my dad died suddenly. And then a few months later, my marriage reached an end. On the heels of these devastating personal losses, I was broke, alone, severely depressed, and trying to figure out how to make my way through grad school.
I literally remember going to a grocery store with a twenty dollar bill and adding up items as I put them in my cart. Needless to say, I ate a lot of Ramen. And not even the good, fancy Ramen that has its own microwaveable containers. I remember staring into my shopping cart filled with $18 worth of food (because tax, right?) and feeling utterly despondent. This piecemeal existence was something I thought I'd left behind when I was in my early twenties. Doing it all over again when I was on the back-nine of my thirties?
It didn't feel good.
I suppose I could have dropped out of my grad school counseling program and gone back to copywriting, but that would have felt like giving up. The shame of failure that came with divorce already felt like too much to bear, so I marshaled ahead willfully. Or stubbornly. Or both.
When my counseling program offered "Art Therapy" as an elective, I took it. And I started to paint.
Before January of 2014, I'd never painted. Yet here I am three years later working as a full-time artist. Yes, I did graduate, by the way, (and I jokingly tell people that I paid $80,000 to find out I was an artist). But even as I finished up my counseling internship, I didn't stop painting.
When you see my work, know that it's the product of all of these: failure, reinvention, rejection, stubbornness, hope, resilience, and lots and lots of stumbling and trying to figure it out.
So how'd I get from broke grad student to full-time, self-supporting artist?
I'll tell you more about that next time. And in the meantime, I'll keep painting. And still probably eating Ramen.
Just the fancy kind.