Today marks the start of a commitment to myself to really GO AFTER the life I want.
Compared to Cubicle Nation, I’m already doing that, making my living from my own art & design business, working at home, setting my own hours. But the truth is I’ve been dissatisfied for a long time. Years even.
I figured out how to create a viable business from my art, and I did it. I’m no mogul – business and finance are foreign languages to me – but I built something from nothing, I make a living from my art, and I’m proud as hell of it.
For the past couple of years, however, I’ve been beating my head against a wall trying to build this business. “The Economy” hit me hard, and I took on the challenge of learning to beat it right back, with limited success. And all along a tiny voice was asking if I was climbing the right ladder (to use a Stephen Covey metaphor).
If I got to the top of the ladder, was that where I really, truly wanted to be?
I did my best to ignore the voice. FOLLOW THE MONEY, I thought! I’ve got something built already, I’ve got to GROW IT and MAKE IT BETTER.
But the truth is, I don’t want to scale my business. It’s great, I love it, I’m proud of it, but I got into it because I like making things, and I spend most of my time processing orders and most definitely not making things.
A succession of recent life crises made me face facts and really ask myself, “What do you want? What will make you happy?”
I’m a basically happy, cheerful person, but if I’m honest, the job that I have – running the business that I’ve created – is not what I’d be doing if I won the lottery. (Which, since I never buy a ticket, I have only a slightly lower chance of ever doing than those who actually play.)
When I got into this business I would have paid money to do what I did. But now? Not so much.
So what do I want to do? What do I want to be when I grow up?
I want to create. On my terms. What I want to make, not what a client wants me to make.
Wow. What a concept.
Until a few weeks ago, this seemed like a crazy, impossible notion. Only the very lucky few ever get to do this, right? And who am I to reach for the stars like that?
But then someone (thank you, narcissistic, integrity-challenged ex-boyfriend) forwarded a link to an amazing site called The Art of Nonconformity, and I was presented with a model of living that ROCKED MY WORLD. Chris Guillebeau is doing it, and thanks to the internet, a whole bunch of other people are doing it.
In other words, it’s possible, therefore I’m going to give it my damned best effort to do it myself.
Reminds me of when I was 19, and three of my friends had auditioned for, and gotten into the dance division at the Juilliard School in NYC, the creme de la creme of dance conservatories. I’d only been dancing a few years myself, but I was passionate about it, I was good at it, and when my dance teacher gave me a stern talking to and told me I should be going to Juilliard as well, I had to make a decision.
I remember thinking I could go back to UC Berkeley, live my safe little life, dance in the UCB dance company, and never reach for the stars. Or I could take a chance.
I remember thinking “I don’t want to turn 40 and wonder ‘what if?'”
The year at Juilliard turned out to be one of the hardest, most awful years of my life, but you know what? I’m hella glad I did it! And when I turned 40 I had no regrets, no thoughts of “I coulda been a contenda.”
I reached for the stars. I followed my Bliss. It didn’t turn out anything like I thought it would, but that’s okay. In fact I actually think it turned out better, injury and lost dance career and all. Life is like that.
So here I am now, post-40, wondering how I’m going to feel at 60. I owe it to my future self to reach for the stars NOW, even if I fail trying.
To that end, I’ve made the following commitment to myself:
- I will create a new piece of art for myself every week
- I will post on my blog twice a week
- I will do everything in my power to follow my evolving Blisses, which means actually doing the things that make me happy on a regular basis.
I also commit:
- to be gentle with myself when I f-ck up
- to get regular exercise
- to get adequate rest (my biggest challenge)
- to work on my areas of challenge (in addition to the rest thing), including clearing out the excess stuff in my life and organizing my space
- to accept and allow that it is not possible to do ALL OF THIS ALL THE TIME (did I mention I have pretty unrealistic expectations of myself?)
So that’s my commitment. It’s scary to put it out there in public (even though nobody actually knows about this blog, so it’s not really public), but I’m doing it in the hopes that it will help me stick with this commitment. I want to live the richest, fullest life I’m capable of living, and just trudging the same old path is not the way to get me there.
The first step is to listen to my dreams. The next step is to actually follow them, which takes work, but what are my other options? I’d rather work hard at creating the evolving life I really want than work hard at climbing a ladder I’m not interested in reaching the top of. So there.
Today, I’m proud to say, I kept my commitment. Not only have I been writing regularly, but I put aside all the external demands on my time to MAKE ART today. Soon to be for sale as products in my Zazzle shop, here’s what I made:
She’s #2 in a series I started a couple of weeks ago that I’m having so much fun with! I’m fired up, I’m creating, and that makes me happy! (It also makes me insomniac, which is not so good, but unfortunately that seems to come with the territory sometimes…)
I’ve got several more in the works. Watch for them in the coming weeks!
Will you join me on the journey, my imaginary audience? I like to think that my brave attempt at really living a creative life will inspire you to do it as well. I’d be happiest if what I do creates net gain for others.
But regardless, I’m doing this for me. My rambly, online journal, helping me to process, hopefully helping to keep me on track.
Wish me luck.
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
You rock, Melissa. Your life is an inspiration. Keep blogging.
Wow. I think I’m going to cry. My imaginary audience is not completely imaginary! Thank you, Robin, for reading and for taking the time to comment. I will indeed keep blogging – it’s become one of my Blisses, so I’m compelled to follow it. 🙂
Wow, how brave of you to go to Julliard! I started dancing at 20 myself (aerials at 25), so I can understand that stern talking you must have gotten. But way to go, making that teacher uncomfortable, and challenging yourself! And your audience is certainly not imaginary! How have you been doing with the one piece of art per week?
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks Nicole! It was, in fact, quite a bold and scary move!
As for my audience, back when I wrote this post they were definitely still imaginary!
And at the time of this writing, my one piece of art per week is being subsumed within the “Art” of my two big projects: the Thriving Artists Project and 365 Days of Genius.
When those are fleshed out and humming along, I look forward to getting back to creating physical works of art. 🙂