I want to open up a conversation about the guilt that I had been carrying around for a while. I am only now able to share it out loud as I have gone through it and made it to the other side and now I am feeling ready to share it. If you asked me a year ago, I would have not named it as guilt. I was avoiding doing that. Naming it makes it real. Knowing it intuitively is different from calling it by its name and starting a conversation with your inner critic is altogether a different story. I was still avoiding its existence. I was avoiding calling it by its name mainly because the moment you do it becomes real enough and something you can’t hide away from any longer.
In my case, naming it is always the first step. Understanding it enough to make yourself want to do something about it. Sometimes we are just not ready (yet), we are still analyzing its different aspects and processing it before actually taking the leap to calling it by its name. I get that and I truly believe that the period of self-reflection is important and much needed.
When I was in school, I had a friend – let’s call her R. She was my best friend. I used to come back home every day from school and used to sit down with my art supplies and write little letters of appreciation for her. I’m not sure what my intention was at that time of my life but I adored the smile on her face when I used to give those poorly drawn notes of appreciation with a bunch of colors randomly floating around with a few lines about how much I loved and appreciated her presence in my life. I remember doing all of that exploration with colors, different materials, and all that DIY’ing without Google or YouTube in my life – just for the sake of doing it. It brought me joy. It was my space for creative expression and its process made me appreciate the little things that I held dear in my life.
Art was like a therapy to me.
I loved playing with all those colors and how there was no judgment about how good or bad it was and no need for getting it perfect or doing it just the right way. I was too happy to find time away from real life and into the imaginations where I enjoyed how colors and different mediums interacted with each other. I liked seeing my ideas and wild imaginations coming to life through the medium of creativity. I enjoyed having the freedom to express myself there. I loved how I could not say a single word and still share my story in a creative and intimate kind of way.
While growing up I learned about the honorable acceptable professions list and art wasn’t on it. I wasn’t really devastated as I never knew art could be pursued as a real career. All I knew was that I enjoyed drawing and playing. I don’t know when but I picked the idea that creativity is a luxury and something that you do in your free time. I was determined to become a doctor. It was top of that honorable acceptable professions list and very much expected of me. I was doing everything I could to make this dream a reality. Mind you, it wasn’t my dream.
It was a dream I was made to believe to be mine.
It really wasn’t. I wasn’t taught to see the difference between my dreams and the collective dream of the family or society. As soon as I learned about the possibility of pursuing art as a career I felt betrayed and devastated. Devastated because this wasn’t expected of me, despite my creative take on everything I was doing as a child. I remember each present I got on my birthdays back then was somehow related to art – a ton of materials for painting.
I always wanted to make a difference in the world with my existence and my work. I wrestled with the idea that becoming a doctor was the only way to make that difference. I kept questioning this idea that you can not make a difference if you are not saving people. With time I learned and realized a few things which for me forever changed the course of the future.
I learned to redefine two important things on my own terms for myself; the difference I wanted to make and the success that I wanted to have in my life to feel fulfilled. At that time I didn’t know I was redefining these for myself. All I knew was that I was staying true to who I am and who I wanted to be. In retrospect, I can say now that I was following my intuition.
I chose not to pursue the dream that wasn’t mine. I started trying my luck in art schools and I ended up choosing to study Product Design. While I was choosing my major, I knew in my heart deep down that I wanted to paint. But I didn’t pick it, I chickened out. I choose to study design instead as everyone around me kept telling me it’s not a career to choose, it’s more like a hobby to do on the days when you have nothing else to do.
I still chose the safer path somehow as I kept hearing and believing the lies that art or painting isn’t going to make you money. I wanted the money. I needed it to elevate my life’s quality, to become independent and I ended up choosing to study design instead of fine arts as a major. While I was doing my formal art education, my bachelors in Product Design, I always choose subjects that I knew were going to be in demand when I will finally make it to the job market; graphic design & photography. I don’t regret studying design but I do miss choosing fine-arts as a major.
I thought I will work as a designer and paint part-time as a hobby. That’s what it could be, right? A hobby that is luxurious.
All those years, almost 10 years to be precise, I didn’t paint. I had limiting beliefs about pursuing painting.
- It is not going to make me the money then why should I pursue it in the first place? I wasn’t taught to let joy become the compass of my life. I never saw any examples either. I thought career and a job is something you do and you don’t necessarily have to like it or feel good about it. It is something you have to do to make a living. That’s all.
- I don’t have a degree in Fine-Arts. I never got to study painting. I don’t know how things are supposed to be done. I’m not sure what is the right way to go about a painting or any artwork.
- I don’t have time to paint. I kept telling myself I don’t have time for this luxurious hobby of mine.
- I didn’t believe that I deserve to live a creative life. I doubted my every single move. I let the self-doubt take away the most precious years of my life and I let the inner critic’s voice become louder and louder, so much so that my own voice got lost somewhere in the midst of all the noise.
All of this kept me away from painting and living my truth out loud. I was basically snoozing my life and all those creative dream projects away. It started to build up as guilt. I started to resent myself for not being able to move past them and finally make things happen on my own terms in a way that would feel right for me.
This guilt is real and it can creep up and destroy your general well-being and happiness in life.
I have been there and I know how heavy I started to feel.
There comes a point in life where you can no longer bear that kind of weight. Taking the risk to see what might happen becomes necessary and the only way out and forward. At that moment you decide to either do something about it or to keep denying it and keep hiding away from it.
That moment arrived in my life. A year ago I decided this is time. It felt like a now or never kind of moment. I felt I had no choice but to see what might be waiting for me on the other side.
If there is a creative passion that you’ve been sitting on for a while, an amazing idea that you have been keeping just sitting there, wrapped tightly in a box, hidden somewhere, growing old and gathering dust – I encourage you to bring it forward, clear the dust and open it.
My encouragement to you:
If there is a part of you that is not feeling ready yet, I encourage you to start a conversation about it and see what comes to the surface for you. I want you to give yourself permission to at least try and be a beginner. If that is something you only like the idea of it probably accept that you only like the idea of it and are not willing to go through the grind that it needs to come to life through you. And if that’s the case, that’s okay too! Release that guilt and let it go for your general well-being.
And if there is a part of you who is not feeling ready yet but is curious to see what could be on the other side of it – take the leap and believe that you are capable of figuring things out as you go. Jump and the net will appear. Understand that it all unfolds in the doing. Start taking small steps today to bring your creative passions to life. They don’t have to be big and crazy creative projects. They need to be the ones which will bring you joy and everything else will fall into its place. They just need to be the ones you can’t stop thinking about.
If there are too many of them, you can start by making a list of them. Go through all of your Pinterest boards and the things you said you’ll do someday. That someday might be today! If this is something you struggle with, I have an exercise called Idea Closet at the end of ‘Finding Your Focus as a Multi-Passionate’ that you might find helpful.
For me, it was unapologetic painting and I started this #the100dayproject to get things going and be in flow and allow creativity to take its own route through me. Over to you, I’m curious what is it for you?
‘The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.’
– Joseph Campbell
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