A few years ago my partner and I went to New Orleans. I had never been, and I was worried that a hurricane might come along and wash it away completely before I got a chance to see it. I had talked about visiting New Orleans before, and the response was always, "We need to do that some day. We need to plan it." And then another few years would go by. So one day I decided that we were going and I began making plans on my own, with my sister's encouragement and a confused partner who kept trying to change the plan, or justify the plan by making it into a business trip, or find a cheaper hotel. But, that's why I took on the planning myself, to make sure it was a trip that I wanted to take. We stayed in a Bed & Breakfast on St. Charles Avenue, which was a converted mansion. We took a tour of the Garden District, the high point of which was the cemetery. (I love the way they handle above-ground graves. We could totally do that here in Texas.) We partied on Bourbon Street and visited art galleries and ate food, ate beignets and drank coffee. And ate some more.
I had taken a week off for the occasion. We left for NOLA on Saturday and stayed three nights. When we got back I was stoked. I was going to start a new life as an artist; I was going to leave my soul-sucking job. I was going to be different; I was going to be a new kind of fabulous with mad scientist hair. And mad scientist eyebrows.
I was going for it.
By the end of my week off I had talked myself down from my high. I had responsibilities and my art wasn't all that, and I'm too old to start something so drastic, and the way my friends sell art in festivals is tedious. So, I continued my job. (In all fairness, I learned a lot at that job, and stretched my limits in many ways. But it was still a soul-sucking job.)
Here I am over 10 years later looking back and wondering, Why? Why couldn't I have ridden that wave? Why did I talk myself out of it? Now I think about the fact that we all have only one body, which doesn't last much more than a hundred years, we live on a tiny planet in a solar system of nine planets (you're still a planet in my book, Pluto) that's in a ginormous galaxy, which itself is in an unfathomably large universe. Way back down here on this microscopic little spec called Earth, my plans to have fun making art, making people happy and making a living was irresponsible? To whom? I clearly had some ideas about life ingrained into my head and I don't even know where they came from. Perhaps a lack of security led me to cling to mediocrity. My job was not one that took me traveling and eating out with clients and truth be told, it barely had any security whatsoever. (One year about 5 people were fired in a matter of a month, and that was just from my department.) I was clinging desperately, hoping to die with enough money to buy food.
Now, I'm looking around again. I have a different job now, one that I briefly allowed to be a soul-sucker, but which I eventually got a handle on. It is not, however, a career—not for me anyway. I have written a novelette that I believe in, and I'm oh-so-close to being finished with a second writing of a mystery novel. I have a circle of friends who are creatives and I have paint and canvasses and ideas. I have lots of ideas for my art and for my partner's art and there is a spark inside of me that is growing into a flame again.
I left my previous job and came to this one with the express intent of writing and making money with art. Scary stuff, leaving behind secure mediocrity, looking for something more. Some people didn't believe in me and I have a lifetime of being a people-pleaser that I'm working against. "Oh, you don't think I can seriously make money with my art? You're probably right. I'm sorry." That’s more or less how it went down. And those people weren’t even invested in my life, just random people not believing in me. But, I’m back and it didn’t take me ten years this time. I will make art. I will be published. I will make money at it. I WILL be fabulous.
One other thing I'll say before I sign off. If you have depression or anxiety, deal with it. Go now. Stop what you're doing and find professionals who can help. The first person you find may not click with you, so you might have to look more than once for help. Do not give up. I was in the throws of depression years ago and I had this tiny little part of my mind that knew that there was a life that wasn't this dark. I call it a mustard seed of faith. There were times when I couldn't feel that other life; I couldn't even remember what it was like to want to live. But, that faith kept me going. I didn't know what a happy life would look like, but I did know that such a thing existed and I would have to keep working at it. So, if you are suffering from this, know that a life exists that is worth living, even if you can't feel it at the moment, even if you can't believe it at the moment. Know that it's true, even when you can't believe it. That's faith.