Learning Who I Want to Be

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver

The Whispers & Yearning

The whispers to be creative and make art have always been there—I just was never confident enough to believe in myself or trust that I had a gift to share.

Art has always been something I’ve yearned for and have dabbled in—I’ve taken classes in art, woodshop, ceramics, and photography. And painting on canvas was something I always aspired to do, but I never could muster up the courage to begin. I often found myself buying art supplies and blank canvases that would end up sitting in my room collecting dust. Eventually I threw the art supplies away and passed the canvases on to someone else.

Stepping Stones

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing in December 2005. Six months later I moved to south Orange County. My first job was a receptionist for a mortgage loan company—I hated it and was miserable. After a few months I was fired. This was the first job I was ever fired from, and I was devastated. I didn’t know at the time that it was just a small stepping stone in my journey.

 

I didn’t have much time to sit and sulk, and I had bills to pay. Within a few weeks I was working again as a receptionist for an online advertising company. The job seemed like a fit, and there was room for growth. After a few months I was promoted. I was excited and tried really hard to make it fit, but it just wasn’t in my heart. I longed to edit and write and work for a magazine, but still wasn’t completely confident in my skills, so I continued to settle. A little over a year later I was laid off, ironically the same day I was going to put in my two weeks’ notice.

 

Gaining Confidence from Within

I finally found the confidence within and declared that I was not going to take another job that was not in the field I wanted to pursue. The universe worked its magic beautifully. Around the same time that I was laid off a position became available at Stampington & Company. A few months earlier there was a position for assistant editor, but remember, I told you I wasn’t confident in myself or my skills, so I didn’t apply. However, this time, there was a position for assistant to the Editor-in-Chief. So it wasn’t writing and editing, but I felt it was step in the right direction.

 

In June 2007, Jenny Doh offered me the position, and I ended up loving the job. The greatest part was I was never really an assistant, rather, an art management coordinator—I got to package and log artwork in and out all day long—and I was smitten. This was around the time Kelly Rae Roberts was getting her feet of the ground. Her artwork was one of the first pieces I ever packaged, and her blog was one of the first ones I read. It was like a hidden world revealed itself to me.

 

Slowly Finding My Voice

As I was promoted to assistant editor, Jenny encouraged me to try my hands at making art. So I did. I still remember my first piece. It was a 5" x 7" canvas panel I painted aquamarine, white, and yellow, and embellished with rub-ons. I showed Jenny my art, and she told me it was nice, but encouraged me to keep trying. It took me some time to create again.

 

Through it all, Jenny was a constant inspiration who would encourage and push her staff out of our comfort zones—whether it was through making art, taking on a new publication, or simply taking on a new task. She always did her best to make sure we were constantly growing and blossoming into who we are meant to be.

 

The Whispers Get Louder & I Get Braver

In 2009, something finally clicked. I had just finished production on Somerset Workshop Volume 6, and I felt really inspired. I started reading blog posts where other artists encouraged beginners, like me, to mimic a style we like to try to get a feel for it until we find our own style and voice.

 

Around this time, I was introduced to Jenni Horne’s blog. I was immediately drawn to her work—it was simple, bright, and something I could relate to. Her birds, flowers, and umbrellas were so whimsical. I printed out a piece of her work, and posted it on my wall. After looking at her work every day, I soon found the voice within telling me to simply try, and I did. At the time, I even had my first piece published in Somerset Studio. Over the next few years I continued to practice, eventually growing braver and more confident in my art.

 

An Unexpected Loss Brings Hope & Inspiration

The real turning point came this past December when my family lost a beloved member unexpectedly. My Uncle Don was only 58 years old; he was also my dad’s twin brother. What I remember about my uncle is his loving and free-spirited soul. He was always so full of life and energy, and he was never afraid to express himself creatively. His passing was also a clear reminder that tomorrow is never promised, and that life is short.

 

My uncle and I had always shared a special bond—he saved my life when I was only 3 days old. I had just had surgery, and he was working in the hospital at the time and happened to stop by to check on me. He saw me turning purple, and immediately performed CPR.

 

His death profoundly impacted my art this past year, and I continued to paint and push myself creatively. For his service last January, I painted my largest painting to date. It measures 36" x 24". I started saying yes to opportunities that felt right. I participated in artist workshops at Studio Crescendoh, and just this past month, I participated in my first art show. I wrote this the week of my show:

 

“I feel like, while I am doing this show for me, I am also doing this for him. I think for me, that is why this year has been so hard, as I’ve really tried to push through all the crap to get to the other side of WHO I WANT TO BE.

 

In a sense I’ve always felt that I owe my life to him, we always just had that bond. And sometimes I find it all really hard to wrap my head around; the fact that he is my Dad's twin brother. That he was brought in this world for his purpose and one of them being saving my life at 3 days old (I think), and I’ve always wondered why I was brought back to life that day.

 

A lot of the reason I have a pretty positive, hopeful, and optimistic outlook on life is because of all of the circumstances I’ve endured. The first and most important one is Uncle Don giving me a second chance at life.

 

I believe we all have a story to tell. I am coming to terms with the fact that I have a story to tell too, and I’ve actually always felt that way, but never really understood the true meaning what that meant. But at 31, a little older, a bit more confident, and a bit wiser, I feel like it’s time to share my story.”

 

Time to Take Action

The whispers to create and pursue art are no longer whispers. They have become very loud and clear screams that I can no longer ignore. I have realized this past year that the life I once so comfortably fit into doesn’t seem to fit anymore. There is a desire for something more, something bigger than I can explain. I trust that I will be OK as I eagerly wait to turn the page to the next chapter on this artful journey.

This essay was originally published on Oct. 28, 2012 at Crescendoh.com