Sunday, October 30, 2016
Art had always been important to me. It allowed me to create a world that I could escape into and it was one of the few things that I thought made me special. I would paint every night and it felt as though I was tapping into something bigger than myself. I felt connected. It had given me a vehicle to express myself and find my voice and discover who I was.
And when I was told that I shouldn't even bother filling out the paperwork, it felt like the walls had imploded and I started to second guess myself. Maybe that teacher was right? Maybe I should listen to my dad and pick a profession that was more reliable and more financially secure and less unstable? Maybe I had wasted all that time? Maybe I wasn't special? Maybe I wasn't good enough after all.
Doubt had crept in and it had settled in my stomach like a heavy weight. The life that I had envisioned for myself had begun to unravel. The future that I saw for myself started to fade away.
I confided my disappointment to one of my other teachers. She was my newspaper advisor and we had spent countless hours together and she had become more than just a teacher, but a friend and a mentor. Some of those paintings that I had done adorned her classroom and were looming over us as we talked. Seeing how upset I was, she encouraged me to talk to a new teacher. He had just been transferred to the school and he hadn't even fully moved into his classroom yet. She said that if I really wanted it, I had to fight for it.
When I met Phi Yoba for the first time, I walked into his classroom with an armful of paintings. I had pulled them off the walls and barraged into his classroom. The desks and chairs were still piled up and there was a very unlived-in feeling. He was in the middle of unpacking and was sweeping up something that had spilled. He looked up from his task and asked with a dubious expression on his face, "Can I help you?"
I replied back, "Yes. I want you to be my teacher."
After hearing my story and showing him my work, he agreed to be my AP art advisor. Even though he didn't know me, he was willing to take a chance on me. He said, "Yes".
The year that followed wasn't exactly the easiest. There were four AP art students and we didn't have an official classroom. Instead, we had a storage closet. There wasn't a budget for supplies, so we dumpster dived for found objects and my art teacher brought in supplies for us to use out of his own pocket. He even got artists from the community to donate art supplies and pay our testing fees. The other art teacher didn't share his supplies, saying that they were designated for his students only. The other art teacher always managed to drop in during our class time and would smirk whenever he saw us working in our storage closet.
As the year went on, his smirk started to disappear as our glorified closet filled with artwork and that artwork was accompanied by prize ribbons and trophies. I ended up testing and submitting my portfolio for not just studio art, but 2-D art as well. I got top marks for both categories. I got accepted into several prestigious art schools and won scholarships.
When I think back on those times, nearly twenty years ago, I recognize how very close I came to living a very different life. Most of my adult life has been filled with artwork and creativity and I've worked in some form or fashion in the maker community. Our livelihood that supports me and William and covers our home and expenses is an arts-based business. Had I listened to that man, who didn't believe in me or my talents or my vision, everything that I hold dear would not exist.
What that taught me is that there will always be people who are naysayers and detractors. They won't believe in you or your dreams and they won't lift a finger to help you... BUT... there are also people out there who wish to see you succeed. They want you to thrive and be your best self. They want you to actualize your potential and achieve all that you set out to be.
Fill your life with the latter type of people, the people who lift you up and inspire you to higher things. Surround yourself with them and be that person for others. Challenge and encourage and multiply the abundance. When others say, "no"... be the person who says, "yes"! If you have a dream, it can be made real and you can live the life you see for yourself... and it can be a great life!