Monday, June 15, 2009

Confessions of a Hippie-Wanna-Be

When I was in high school, I told my parents that I wanted to be an artist. As a fifteen year old, I had no idea what being an artist meant. All I knew was that I enjoyed art and aspired to live a creative life. My parents were not artists, but they had some idea what kind of life it would involve. They knew that artists lived for their art and died for it. It would involve a single minded intensity that dwarfed all other aspects of life. It frightened them I think, because I had the personality that could be very, very focused. My absorption into my interests was borderline fanatical.

So, they painted a picture of the sacrifices involved. Was I willing to literally starve for my art? Was I willing to put everything aside to buy the materials for my masterpieces? And after that, I may not be recognized as great until after I died and until then, most people would reject my work. They gave it their best shot, but it didn't seem to bother me. I was naive and impractical, and I thought I cared nothing for fame, fortune or even security. So they tried another angle.

I might be talented, but the truly great artists were beyond talented. They were geniuses and took their abilities to a higher level than ever imagined before. How could I think that I would ever compare to them? Frankly, my doodlings and attempts showed that I had improved over the years but it was hard to see any originality or cutting edge vision. At this, I had to agree. I was no Michaelangelo or Raphael. But I would have liked to see how far I could go with the right training and influences. So, I might not be as brilliant as Van Gogh, but maybe I could be. I would have to try to see. I might not be an Artist, but perhaps my art could lead me to something interesting.

My parents finally came to the arguement that I was still young and I had many opportunities to develop and grow. I was good at art but, I was so much more than that. I had other interests and abilities that I had not dared to explore because art took so much of my time. I responded that I wasn't good at anything else. My father countered back that I did not know that because I never really tried anything else. At this I was speechless. I was smart enough to know that becoming an artist because it was the only thing I believed I was good at would lead me to a lot of frustration because I placed all my self worth in one thing. My goals in art were about what it did for me, not because I had a passion and a love for it.

Then my parents shared that they wanted the best for me, that they were afraid that I would miss out on a lot of life if I maintained such a one track mindset. Their highest ambition for me was an ordinary life, to enjoy a good marriage and have children and a career that I enjoyed. Although it was hard at that age to envision me having a life like that (strangely, it was easier envisioning myself as something much more radical), I trusted my parent's wishes that I would be loved and secure. And balanced. All of which set me into a totally different trajectory in life.

So, I took other classes which led me to find out that I was good at a variety of things. I graduated from high school (1980) and went on to win a scholarship to study pharmacy in college. While looking at art in the university museum as a freshman, I realized that I did not miss being an artist and was certain that art did not miss me back. There was another much worthier purpose that I could invest my passions towards, a Person who was more magnificent than all the art in the world.

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