Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some honesty.

At some point in my life, I knew I was going to be an artist. In high school, I loved my art classes. I signed up for as many as I could and relished the time that I spent molding clay, "throwing" pottery, drawing, painting, etc. I felt free and happy and alive and I thought that I was doing something that was built for me. Then I went to college with no clear idea of what the hell I was doing. I wanted, at first, to go to Portland State University and see if I could hack it as a starving artist, dedicated to the trade. I was convinced through logic, loyalty, and good ol' common sense to apply at the University of Montana. Apparently, I had a Fine Arts scholarship but I'll be damned if I ever saw a cent of the money that I was supposedly awarded. No matter... I applied and was accepted. Seriously, it's no biggie to be accepted as an undergrad to the U of M. They'll take you as long as you have a pulse, funds for your education, and a social security number. I started out as Liberal Arts and was then convinced that Fine Arts was where it's at. Good, good. I'll fulfill my romantic adolescent dream of being a starving artist, struggling against the fearsome Dominant Paradigm to showcase my soul in the form of pencil sketches, oil paint masterpieces, and symbolic shouts in charcoal or conte' crayon my rebellion and unbridled talent. Oh yes, I was going to purge all of my angst and the years I spent silent yet angry onto a canvas or any medium that could stand up against my fierce passion.

Except... Only... If not for... Etcetera.

I'm a pretty good artist. At least, I was back in the day. I remember drawing a self-portrait back in 6th grade that drew the attention of my classmates who hated me as a matter of principal. Even they had to admit that I just might have some talent beneath my shy, awkward, grandma's-hand-me-downs-wearing exterior. That had to have been a big step for them. In high school, I wasn't the most talented but I'll be damned if I wasn't passionate. I had ideas and dreams and I was going to exhibit them for the world if it killed me. I took the "advanced" classes and attended a workshop for those who were supposedly the most gifted. It was at that point that I discovered that I wasn't the bee's knees. I was in a room with 3 to 4 more people vastly more talented and passionate than myself. Damn, these people could draw/paint/pastel circles around me. Well, fuck you! I'll keep at it! Through sheer will I will surpass you. You will be saying "I knew Sarah when..." I'll be brilliant and beautiful and my creations will be coveted the world over...

... only... not.

At some point in college, I learned the earth-shattering truth that to be an artist, I would either have to be mind-bogglingly talented or a great bullshitter. I was neither. Don't get me wrong, I can B.S. pretty well but that's not what I wanted to be. If I was going to Make It, I wanted it to happen because I possessed something beautiful and undeniable. I wanted to be able to show people their own naked and vulnerable souls staring back at them through my work. I wanted to be able to cause inspiration, create life-altering moments, uncover truths. I couldn't do this, no matter how much I tried. I had to do a ridiculous performance art piece for one of my first art classes in college and I freaking poured myself into it. I threw out all the ideas I had and was determined that it was going to be actually meaningful instead of pretentious and ridiculous like so many performance art pieces before me. Yes, I was going to turn something absurd into something important. Only, I didn't. I never did. I sketched and I painted and I sculpted but it wasn't breaking the ground I wanted it to. I wasn't shining. I wasn't special and important. I was just one more [fill in the blank] in a long line of [fill in the blank]. I experienced a soul-shattering moment at 19.

Enter Creative Writing. I remember back in the day when friends and even enemies (or those I perceived as such) said in one way or another that I was a good writer. A girl that I had always thought of as "one of those girls who hates me/doesn't know I exist" said to me "I wish I could write like you.". I remember when she said it, I remember her name, I remember how it felt to hear those words. A friend once told my mother that I was a far better writer than she was. My mom told me this out of the blue and indicated that this was information that wasn't supposed to be passed on to me. I could have flown. This was important. This was, maybe, what I was meant to do. All of this came back to me when I decided to switch my major to English. Mind you, I had done poorly in grade school English classes. I couldn't diagram a sentence to save my life nor identify the participial phrase. It wasn't until my English classes became focused on stories and novels that I was able to pick up on just what the hell was going on here. Thanks to the transition, I earned the award of "English Student of the Year" in 8th grade. That's right.

So I spoke with my Art advisor and tried to make clear that this relationship just wasn't fulfilling my needs, blah blah blah. I don't think anyone was sorry to see me go. English was going to provide me with everything my soul needed to thrive. I took a fiction workshop that I think I must have mentally blocked for my wellbeing. My stories were utter crap. At one point, I animated a bowl of tomato soup. It was that bad. Switch, quickly, to poetry. My goodness, how it fed me. I felt like this was everything that I needed and everything that I was missing. It challenged me and nurtured me. I could do this. I was meant to do this. If I couldn't create art with paint and pencil then I could do it with words, god damnit. I was nowhere near the best in my classes, I struggled all the time, sometimes I just couldn't do it. But I always tried. I wanted this. Somehow, I was going to make it work. And I did and I graduated.

And that's it. I haven't written a single line of a poem since 2005.

I'm not sure what did it. At some point, I must've convinced myself I was being silly or unrealistic. I was fooling myself if I thought I could do anything with this. I got married and had babies. That's really no excuse at all and it's horrible to even think of my life at this point as an excuse. If poetry exists in anything, it exists in the struggles of my husband and myself to reconcile our love for each other with our daily compromises. It exists in every musical note of laughter that sings out of the throats of my children. It exists in every single second of my trying to rediscover just what the hell I'm doing with my one and only life. I don't want my kids to see me as a cautionary tale. I don't want them to grow up, thinking "don't be like mom". I still believe I have something in me, else I wouldn't bother with this fucking blog. I wouldn't even try. I just don't know how to find that part of myself again. I see glimpses from time to time but the image always fades quickly and I'm back to sitting at a desk, doodling on MS Paint. I'm back to doubting. I'm back to sitting at my home computer at 11:19 PM on a Thursday night, tipsy off some Riesling, listening to a song that I never thought I would love, typing away into the chasm of the internet, relying on the one or two readers that I might have picked up along the way. There is more than this and I will find it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


Christian Herwitz said...

Lovely post. Who the hell are we gonna get to replace you at the clinic?? Goddamnit.

Anyway, I used to wanna be an artist (I went to art school for three years)...then I realized that I *am* an artist, and it doesn't really matter what I do, so long as my approach is artful. It seems clear to me that your approach is same.

Also, you should really write web comics. srsly.

Adam said...

Keep your head up. It can be easy to find yourself working to live and not having time to do what you love. Maintain a focused mind on doing what you know you're meant to do and you will succeed.

I agree on the web comic idea for sure. Your writing ability is tremendous. I'd contribute if you need any help.

TheSarah said...

Danke for the comments.