“If you could be anything you wanted to be without failing, what would you be?”
A question I’ve thought about and had different answers for throughout the course of my life.
I’ve been feeling kind of inspired lately. It’s funny, growing up I never thought of myself as a creative person. I put the idea of art in a box that for me was abstract and unreachable. If you had asked me when I was 12… 14… 18 years old if I thought I would be an artist when I got older, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t paint; therefore I couldn’t art.
My favorite subject in school was always literature. Growing up I loved to read and I dreamed of being able to contribute to the literary world myself. When it came to the mechanics of writing, I was great; spelling, grammar, and sentence structure were second nature to me. I kept a journal and tried really hard to write stories, but the inspiration was never there—I never had an idea I really felt connected to. So I adopted the mindset that I couldn’t be successful, and all but forgot about it.
Then I went to college. I started out as a Psychology major, couldn’t handle the intro class (which included a 30-something page research paper and memorizing all the nerves in the brain), and switched to Political Science because I wanted to be a lawyer. Nothing abstract about that. I came to find that the other Poli Sci majors were not the most pleasant or agreeable people, and I was barely able to follow the arguments that were flying back and forth every day. I wanted to make my practical dad proud, so I stuck with it until a real live lawyer came to speak in a class. He told us that people go into law for the wrong reasons; he said most of being a lawyer is doing research, and if you don’t like doing research you probably shouldn’t try to enter the field. Well that hit home, let me tell you. There are few things on this earth I dislike more than doing research—particularly on things I don’t care about. I had a vision of my future self sitting in an office buried under pages and pages and pages of cases to memorize, facts to check, law precedents to research… and that was the day I let my responsible future disappear down the toilet.
At that point, I grabbed Houghton’s course catalog and started searching for a new major. I happened upon Communication; a major just broad enough to suit my needs. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but after talking with the head of the department, it seemed that taking some Comm classes might be the best way to figure that out.
I dabbled in audio, video, animation, 3D modeling; enough for a basic knowledge of how the media industry operates. But what really stood out to me was digital imaging. I should specify that I’m not talking about graphic design, which is like creating visual material by digitally “drawing” in a sense. Digital imaging is more like manipulating still photographs (in PhotoShop) to create something enhanced, new, different; usually to tell a story. Audio was interesting, I had a lot of fun with video, I put a lot of heart into my animation projects, but all of that that was nothing compared to how much I enjoyed working with photographs.
The most impactful part of discovering my love for digital imaging and getting lost in this fascinating activity was that, somewhere along the lines, I realized I was, in fact, creative. And my sense of creativity was weird. I made some truly strange images because I had ideas, and in this capacity I felt like I could run with them in whatever direction I wanted.
My favorite professor (who also had kind of an odd artistic sense) was always right there pushing me, encouraging me, critiquing me, giving me new perspectives and ideas and angles to think about. He made sure I understood that there was no “right” way to approach it; there was no subject matter that was more likely to get an A than any other; there was no required format. So I let my life be my inspiration. It was the most freeing experience; I was making art!
I spent most of junior and senior year creating images. My final project was intended to be a starter kit for applying to grad school. By junior year I had figured out my ideal career would be planning weddings, but I didn’t want to lose sight of this art form that had become a part of me, and a couple more years of school wouldn’t be a terrible thing in the name of being a good digital story teller. I had my sights set on the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After I graduated, I lost a lot of motivation. That didn’t come as a surprise—I was finally done with school; I needed a break. Then just a few months out of college I got a full time job in the events field—a massive and unexpected blessing. So of course the whole art thing got put on hold. I did a decent amount of graphic design work for my job because there were posters needed for marketing purposes on a regular basis, but it was much more structured; the straight up creativity from my weird little mind didn’t really have an outlet anymore.
Then the worst possible thing I could have ever imagined happened. My dad passed away after a 2 year fight with cancer. I was devastated… I still am. I had no idea what to do with myself, my life was spiraling, there was no one who felt exactly as I felt, and I had no idea what to do with the overload of emotion and information in my head. I tried starting a journal to recount everything I felt, but I couldn’t bring myself to write in it past a couple of paragraphs. I tried sketching some ideas for an image series, but it felt far too forced and uninspired. It was like I was stuck, a bottle shook up with the cork screwed on tight. There were days when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I felt hopeless or I felt nothing; I needed to hang out with someone or accomplish something. I would sit there and think “get up, go to a movie, go shopping, DO something,” but I just could not bring myself to listen. One of those days, while I was sitting on my bed wondering what to do with myself, I thought of some words. Words that only made sense to me, but if I wrote them down they were out of my head. So I wrote, and I edited, I wrote a little more, edited more, wrote a last line and it was like some weight had been lifted. I wrote what I was feeling in the only format I could manage—a poem.
I was never a big fan of poetry. It never really made much sense to me. I liked some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work and a couple of the classics that sounded like music to me, but as a whole I wouldn’t have said “I love poetry.” But at that moment when I wrote just a few lines out of pure desperation, it clicked for me. I gained a much deeper appreciation for the writing style. It empowered me, it gave me a place for my grief overload. I wanted to read more and I wanted to write more. And I tried. Sadly, the only other time I was able to easily write something I was connected to was Father’s Day, a day that was really difficult for me. Everything else after that felt too forced and never really made it past some scribbled ideas.
I don’t know why but I seem to bounce from one creative outlet to another, depending on what I’m feeling or going through at any given time, and I can never consistently call one home. Digital Imaging will always be my favorite acquired skill, and obviously here I am writing… But in order to get somewhere in this world you have to hone a skill, right? You have to spend hours, days, weeks, years, on one thing before it becomes something.
So maybe I need to stop trying to get somewhere. Maybe I’m not meant to be a professional writer or a digital storyteller or a renowned artist. Maybe I’m not meant to become something big. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be successful. I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for a long time now, but I’ve been afraid that it wouldn’t take off because of my apparent writer’s ADD. I used to think there was no point in writing or creating if it didn’t reach lots of people. But that’s not important to me anymore. I’m taking failure off the table. I won’t fall into the trap of producing content purely for the likes, shares, and comments because no matter what, there’s something therapeutic about putting my words out into the big scary world. Knowing that there’s a chance someone might come across them and maybe appreciate them, that there’s a possibility I could help or relate to even one person makes it completely worthwhile. Even if the only eyes these posts reach are my own, it still means everything.
I won’t create for the sake of what other people think. I will create because in the process, I start to feel whole again.
If you could be anything you wanted to be without failing, what would you be?