I call this image “Confirmation” – left on my desk 9/30/13
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I’ve always liked the idea of being an ARTIST.
My whole life is a forest full of paths that represent some form of creative endeavor. So the conversation I had with my husband as we were standing at our bathroom sinks one night in 1998 came to no surprise.
“If you could do any profession, regardless of training or background, what would it be?”
Without hesitation I replied, “A photographer.” Dreams of becoming the next Annie Leibovitz wafted in the air.
“Wow! That was fast! Really?” He sat down on the counter and waited for me to continue.
Not only did this conversation morph into a full blown research project of “how to become a photographer”, it became a constant topic at our dinner table. I was a 5th teacher at the time (and loving it, by the way), and the idea was just to get the hobby going. I am a dog with a bone when it comes to new plans and directions. I quickly learned how to use my FILM camera (!) and the process of developing and printing. The dream became a reality when my children were born as I had learned enough to hang out my shingle and take clients. With the decision to stay home with my firstborn, I had some flexibility in my mom-schedule to shoot sessions for a creative outlet….and a little moo-la too.
My life as a full-time creative had begun.
After 13 years of balancing my creative dreams and the financial responsibilities of running a successful business, I was yearning for more of the artist part. I read book after book written by women who were “living the dream” with their painting, music, writing, etc. One in particular was Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts, which prompted me to discover collage and mixed media. I entered a typhoon of classes in artistic technique in every medium known to man and accumulated a small fortune of materials packed to my studio ceiling. It was during this discovery time that I found blogging. It was right up my alley—I loved to write, express myself and I am extremely visual. …the perfect spot to put my art, thoughts and photography up for the world to see.
I became obsessed.
I was consuming books and blogs at a ridiculous rate that were written by artists who were “making it”, so to speak. I daydreamed about having my own exhibit (which I ended up doing a few times—amazing experience) and I fantasized about the Artist’s Life. You know…days spent drinking tea in my studio as I brought life to a canvas…rain pelting outside…Ella Fitzgerald filling the air…blog posts about what it was like to actually create for a living without interference.
Romantic ideas about lifestyles can come to a screeching halt when you come to realizations about your own reality.
I am not a loner. I don’t care for holing up inside on rainy days for months on end (Hello, Northwest winter/spring). I don’t particularly enjoy marketing myself and selling my vision of what is art. I have trouble with the lack of structure that can swirl around the life of an artist…not to mention the mind bending/numbing process of calculating my taxes.
The story has been told here before. After volunteering in a local high school once a week last fall, it occurred to me that I was brushing aside the very thing I believe I was made to do.
I am a teacher.
I come alive in front of little people with a desire to make things understood through creative methods. I relish the process of building relationships with kids and find my heart bucket filled each day in a classroom. I finally came to terms with the fact that I am a people person—someone who enjoys professional friendships as well as tight bonds that can be nurtured within the walls of a school. I even realized that the bright environment that is primary colors and patterns in an elementary school overcomes my seasonal blues.
The most important A-Ha with my career transition was the idea of leaving a legacy….the promise that what I do today in room 302 will last in the hearts and minds of kids who are forming who they are going to be. My life lessons run deep when I work with children and I always picture them as adults reviewing the teachers in their lives. Did she make me feel important? Did she stop and listen to what I had to say? Did she present the curriculum in a fun and exciting way? Did I become a writer/mathematician/historian that year in 3rd grade? I take what I do very, very seriously each and every day because I know what’s at stake. There can be no “off days” in my attitude when I greet them at the door. I love it and at this moment I am not sure why I didn’t go back sooner.
I came to an important understanding regarding career choices.
There are passions. I LOVE art, photography, writing, music…the list goes on forever on this creative planet for me. And there are callings…I am finally clear on what I am supposed to do with it. I’m not discounting the time I had to create with wild abandon…the brilliant break that was my artsy life. It was important and necessary. I do believe that it drew me back to teaching for a reason. What’s that quote? The one about people needing to choose what makes them come alive, because the world needs more people who are truly alive….
You know what? The world needs more teachers who are truly alive as well.
It is the most important thing I can do with my life. At some point I discounted that for the sake of grabbing hold of a passion and looking at others living this passion as a representation of what my own life should look like. It’s so hard to not want to live another person’s life. From the outside it looks so appealing and wonderful. Unicorns and rainbows wax and wane throughout the journey’s struggles…the ones we don’t see on Facebook. The truth is I chose the life that I knew would make the biggest impact and was lucky enough to realize I had been missing the fulfillment part. I actually said out loud to myself in the car yesterday,
“I am so grateful that God created this unexpected detour. I never knew this was where I was supposed to be. It’s so good…it’s so, so good.”
Do you have an idea in your head of the career or pursuit you think you ought to be doing?
Perhaps the very talents and hidden treasure within you are better served in areas that have been discounted or forgotten. A calling can whisper so softly…if you slow down enough to listen, it just might just help you create the life you’ve always wanted.