When you were little, you liked to draw horses with your school pencils. You never stopped; it was all you wanted to do. One classmate asked you to draw her a horse but to leave the tail off so she could draw it on herself. Her name was Ashlie. Strangers, teachers, peers asked you whether you wanted to be an artist; they asked in the way people ask questions to which they already know the answers.
No, you said.
What do you want to be? they asked.
You shrugged. A teacher.
You got to middle school, and every adult you met said you had to start thinking about what kind of career you wanted. They said, You should like your job, but make sure it supports you financially.
Google the average salary of an artist. You don’t need to. You already know.
I want to be a physical therapist. I want to be a psychologist. I want to be an oncologist.
You got to high school. You wrote essays like art because you saw like art and you thought like art. I don’t know what I want to do. Maybe you’ll be an English major. Photography can be your side gig.
You got better. You dressed like art, you collected art, you made art. You went to school for psychology and English, but you learned art, you met art. You couldn’t avoid art.
You’ve changed your
People doubt art, nod their heads and smile politely at art. Oh! You want to be a graphic designer, then! The only productive art. The only responsible art.
People who do art just aren’t good at anything else; they have to take what they can get. But how do they think you got into an honors program? You can do anything they can, and you can make it beautiful, too.
Remember that your dad always said, Never stop drawing.
For what feels like the first time in my life, I feel I am beginning to embrace art and to embrace my identity as an artist.
That sounds ridiculous because outwardly, I’ve always loved art. But that calling has been a source of conflict and stress for as long as I can remember: there’s a stigma around choosing an artistic career, a sort of uncertainty stemming from the supposed irresponsibility of it. I’ve never allowed myself to consider pursuing art; to me, doing so has always seemed the equivalent of leaping into a whirlpool of financial instability and all the limits it brings.
I think part of what’s leading me to accept the inevitability of my artistic career is my realization that I’m pretty terrible at forcing myself to do things that don’t interest me, that seem irrelevant or pointless, that
Art is in the way I exist, the way I breathe. It’s already here, I just learn to manipulate it. I will do art. I will be art.