I know what you’re thinking—not everyone has the artistic ability to make money or become famous as an artist. But kindergartners don’t know from money or fame. They know that they can take a pencil and a piece of paper and make something that is pleasing to them. Later, they decide that what they create only has value if someone else says it does. I think this is a heartbreaking thing—this transition from self-acceptance to self-doubt. I mourn all the wonder that is lost, buried in the minds and souls of all those people who no longer believe it to be worthy.
See, I was thinking about all this today. I was thinking about it because I am a person who has always been plagued with self-doubt. Indeed, I’ve fought it so long and so hard that I know my opponent well and it has had to learn to disguise itself in order to avoid being summarily booted out of my head. (It would be a lie to say that I don’t weary occasionally of this endless battle for self, but that’s a post for a different day.) If that dreadful little voice was saying something direct like “You’ll never make it into nursing school. You’re not good enough” why, I’d have no problem sending it packing. So it becomes insidious. It tells me I’m tired of school, don’t want to have to compete when I’m trying so hard to learn, maybe don’t even want to be a nurse, whatever. But the truth is that it’s the same old stuff once I haul it into the light and look at it. It’s fear. It’s doubt. It’s the first message, only in different words. Frankly, I’m a little tired of translation today. But it did get me thinking.
Jami Lula is a favorite singer of mine and he has a song wherein he says that “…my life is a masterpiece…”. And here’s what I think: if our lives are masterpieces—and I believe that they are—then they are surely OUR masterpieces, meaning that we are the artists. Artists who once knew that we created art. Artists who plunged ahead with finger paint or crayons or whatever was to hand without a single thought of what the result might look like to anyone as long as we enjoyed the creating. We squashed the paint between our fingers, and we didn’t hesitate to toss a page and start over if we didn’t like it. But hang out with a bunch of young kids sometime. When they don’t like what they made, most of them don’t give it a second thought. They just start over. They not only don’t think that they’re somehow “bad” for messing it up, they don’t even really formulate the notion that they messed it up. It didn’t turn out. They’ll do it again and they won’t waste a second worrying that the next one might not turn out, either.
I want that back, I really do. I want to make choices for my life and work on goals and dreams without fear or self-judgment—just start painting and love the process. I’m not four anymore, so I can also throw in there that I want it to grow me as a person while I’m at it. But I don’t want to paralyze myself anymore with that nagging little voice that keeps telling me to put my hand down because I’m not really an artist. I’m an artist, damnit. I’m the artist of this particular masterpiece and it’s the most important thing I’ll ever create. I don’t want to keep worrying that other people won’t think I’m painting it right. In the end, if it pleases me, it’s right.
I may or may not make it into nursing school, but it will please me if I work hard at it, learn some things, grow myself. That’s art. I may or may not ever be a registered nurse, but it will please me to return to being a medical assistant if I use that career to touch the lives of my patients and give that care that I and Catherine of Sienna were talking about in an earlier post. The process of painting is so much more than the finished product. Ask any 4-year-old.
You know what else? I want to be this tree:
We’ve had so much wind and rain lately that all the trees in the front yard are denuded but this one hangs on. It’s absurdly yellow in the midst of the stately cedars and pines. It’s scraggly. It doesn’t really seem to know its place. But it’s taking up space and taking up sky and taking up sun with bright abandon. That tree doesn’t have to be right. It just has to grow.
I don’t think I want to know my place, either.