Yesterday in art class I spoke of this to another young woman in the class with me. She was an art teacher for K-5. She just finished her first year and hated it, yet signed up for a second year anyway. We talked about how we both had great jobs, yet felt completely unsatisfied--like we were longing to do something else, something creative. But the question lingered, do we do that now and risk poverty, or are we supposed to be miserable the first 40 years of our life so we can comfortably enjoy this freedom on the backslide? As my new friend Kristen said, “Sounds like a miserable way to live, to me.”
But as I looked around the room at the other 6 students, four of them had shared stories about miserably working for corporate for ++ years before they finally retired and began to pursue art. Between the other two students, one was a local artist who owned her own family gallery and taught metal-smithing regularly, and the other was a middle school art teacher who lived on a farm south of Eureka. Although she said she enjoyed her job, she also said she hated dealing with students all day.
So what were we really doing there? It seems as though we were all just looking for validation as artists. Are we good enough, Barbara? Is this okay? How does this look?
I don’t think these questions were as much physical as they were spiritual. We were asking for healing to our broken spirit. Too many times people told us we couldn’t, and this was our small, 3-day escape into a dream we might like to pursue some day.
One student I particularly felt for. She sat in the back of the room and seemed to enjoy herself more than any of us. She laughed and played and encouraged the rest of us. When she shared her story it was a similar path I have seen myself on. She was almost an art teacher. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art or Psychology or something, and then spent 40 years being a waitress. Throughout these 40 years she had always dabbled in painting, yet never fully pursued it. She has always wanted to be an artist.
Two my left were the two Lindas. Linda O. and Linda G. Linda O’Neal was 71, though she didn’t look a day over 50. She was a fun, spunky, I-can’t-believe-your-a-grandma type. She had been a hairdresser for 25 years, then in her 40s decided she wanted to be a nurse, so she did that for 25 more years before retiring. Now she and Linda G. are part of an art gallery in Hardee, Arkansas. They spend all their time taking and organizing art classes. They group together with 29 other women to run this gallery and keep the spirit alive. She was fun and helpful and peaceful.
Linda G. was originally from Boston, and her accent stuck in my dreams after day 1. Fun and yet the most boisterous student, I see her story as somewhat sad. She was one had worked corporate for many years, finding herself very successful and very miserable. She retired and moved to Saint Croy in the Caribbean for a while, where she met her current husband. He owned land in Hardee, and that is where she moved and met Linda O. The two were the best of friends and quite a hoot to fellowship with.
The ESSA intern, Anja was 3 years younger than me. She is a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Born and Raised in Bentonville, yet her parents own a restaurant in Eureka Springs so she spends much time here. She is majoring in Art and Drawing. She told me of her dreams. She said she would take any job she could get after graduating so she could eventually move up to a high-paying, well-respected job. She is going into her junior year. I said the same thing when I was her age. A year later I was miserable.
Life is a funny thing. What are we all doing here? Why do we have desires and longings and pains that won’t go away unless we do a certain thing. It’s called purpose, but why is it such a consuming thing? Why can’t we just turn it off and be happy? We can turn it off, but happiness is not the result.
I don’t want to have to wait till I’m 50 to uncover my inner artist. I want this heart of me to grow up with me, flowing over with love and confidence.
It’s a spiritual journey and I need the help of self and Christ to nurture this desire. I know without a doubt I am born to write and paint. I am born to dance and sing and love.
Where do I go from here?