Over twenty years ago, when I was released from active military service, I could have moved on to anything. Before me was a choice: follow my passion for art and likely struggle financially; or pursue a career in law and be able to pay the bills and live comfortably. Recently, I have had many occasions to reflect on that decision and I am reminded of the words of the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “[S]he chose poorly.”
I went through paralegal school and secured my first job before I even graduated. I always swore I would pursue art school once I had graduated from paralegal school then transition at some point to a career in art. However, the money as a paralegal was good – certainly a lot better than my previous job as a veterinary technician – and, as often happens in life, there always seemed to be some reason why I was not able to return to school. I was still in the army reserves, I was getting married, I was having a baby, I was a mother and then a single mother.
But it was not just that, it was something else as well. When I was seven, we lived in Goleta, CA and I very distinctly remember one late afternoon in the fall. I picked up one of my father’s drawing books and sat at the dining room table and just started to draw the animals I saw drawn in the book. It was as if a door had opened and I innately knew how to make my pencil strokes looks like the ones in the books. I had never done this before and when I showed my mom she was stunned as was my father when he came home from work.
From that point forward I was frequently reminded of how much talent I had, I was sent to art classes and encouraged to utilize my skills and draw all the time. That is, until I reached high school. Then the business of deciding on the career I would spend the rest of my life pursuing was looming over me. In the same breath my parents would praise my talent and tell me that art was too competitive and that I should be more pragmatic about my career choice. It was made clear that, while I had talent, they did not deem it sufficient to sustain me in the real world.
After working odd jobs out of high school (because I had no idea what I wanted to study that was not art-related) I joined the army where I worked as a paralegal in the JAG corps. I liked the work, and law, and felt that it would make a good job while I pursued art. At that crossroads, when I was debating whether to follow my heart or my head, the nagging voice reminded me I was not good enough, and the decision was made.
Art was put on the back burner, but occasionally revisited to sustain me emotionally. In 2008, I discovered my passion for photography and, to the extent possible, have managed to sell my work and see it hanging in galleries. However, I am still plagued by the voice that tells me I am not good enough to make a living at it and that I have progressed so far down the path of being a paralegal that it is cost prohibitive to give it up and start over. There is also the lingering fear that my notion of talent is only in my mind that I don’t have as much as I had been led to believe.
So the question posed is, were money were no object, if I did not have bills to pay and mouths to feed, would I take that leap of faith, blindly diving into living an artistic life? The answer is a resounding Yes! Every day, all day and it would fill my soul and satiate my passion. Sounds like it’s time to start playing the lottery…that can’t be any less practical, right?