Today is my third anniversary since I quit my corporate job to throw myself into my art career. It’s been more than a year since my business turned its first profit and since I’ve accepted any consulting work outside of the arts. What does that mean? It means doing all the work it takes to make your silly, crazy, childish dreams actually worth taking seriously. (Just think, somebody decided that making animal shapes out of refined flour was a viable product. And they were right.)
It means that I’ve worked over 2000 hours between January and August, so in 2/3 of the year I’ve logged as many hours as a 40-hour-per-week employee would log in a whole year. It means 700 of those hours were on creating art, and 1300 on activities that make the business side possible. It means getting to choose my own hours, which often means late nights and weekends. It means a rejection letter folder I keep for shows and clients I don’t get.
It means doing the work that I believe is beautiful and meaningful. It means dozens of interviews to collect community stories for community-focused projects. It means growing pains that are both terrible and wonderful. It means immersing in the work, for worse and for better. It means trying not to cry after listening to a student talk about the fourth shooting they’ve witnessed and wondering how the hell teaching them to sew and quilt is going to fix this. It means finally breaking down and ugly crying after watching a student use those same sewing materials from class to fix his coat, instead of getting into a fight with the student who tore it, and crying again when you’re searching for a solution to keep funding classes. It means using art everyday as a metaphor and a method for creating better patterns in our relationships and in ourselves. It means seeing clients’ faces glow this evening when I showed them their project’s preliminary designs, and knowing that the designs honor their story.
It means encouragement and discouragement in equal turns. It means learning your worth. It means learning your limits. It means taking criticism, fielding doubts, and accepting the fact that some people may always judge you or wonder how you make a living doing that (Again, animal crackers are a thing. Making pictures is also a thing.) It means working every day to break the starving artist stereotype. It means learning that when you defend your pricing, you defend it on behalf of everyone in your field. It means having unending gratitude for the people who from the beginning believed you were one of the ones who had the tenacity to make it. Three years in already.
It means that I am both extraordinarily lucky and that I repeatedly choose not to waste that luck. It means going back and forth between thinking “OMG I’m doing it” and “OMG everything I’ve worked for is going to explode in my face.” It means constantly wishing that I were a little bit braver each time my comfort zone gets a little bigger. It means forgetting to eat sometimes. It means taking the work seriously, and myself not so seriously, and vice versa, depending upon what the occasion calls for.