About ten years ago, or maybe five or maybe seven, but not last year or the year before, I thought about selling a family heirloom that would have gotten me approximately $15,000.00. If I had sold it, I would have been able to take a year to just work on my art. I make so little money each year that fifteen grand would actually be MORE than I am used to having. I really wrestled with the possibility. If I had sold this thing, the chances are that I could never have anything like it again. But it’s not something I care for on any aesthetic level, nor do I have a sentimental attachment to it. I talked it over with friends. I asked other artists at parties, openings and other places where crowds gather. Not one person said “Yes!! Do it!”. Many people actually said “NO!”. Not because of what I wanted to do with the money, but because of this item being given to strangers , cast off from my family. For some reason complete strangers had more sentimental feelings towards it than I do.
I can’t remember what my husband said. I don’t think he was strongly for, or against this plan. In the end, I didn’t do it. I still have the object. I still COULD do it. The question is, what held me back? Was it the fear that if I took a year to really spend the bulk of time time working on my personal vision of art, I’d be right back at square one at the end of that year, with no progress made either with my work, or in my career? Was it the fear of letting down the people I work for? Even though I am only part time at the library, and do a smattering of freelance work, and I am far far from indispensable, I feel a loyalty to those who employ me, and a responsibility to keep my hours, hold on to my turf, and my safe, comfortable routine.
Whatever the reason was, I believe the biggest obstacle was my fear of losing the item of actual value, and trading it in for something that only had value to me. When I imagined waking each and every day for one year, with nothing to do but my mommy chores and my studio work, I imagined a kind of joy that I rarely feel in the life I have. I guess I didn’t feel worth $15,000.00, and 365 days to do what I want to do. My art work doesn’t feel important enough, valid enough to take that sort of time, and that sort of investment. I know that the fact that I don’t believe in myself, in my art, is the thing that holds me back in this life more than anything else. I keep waiting for the validation to come from outside, so that I can allow myself to believe it. But, that’s not the way things work.
I don’t know how things work. But I know that if I can’t bring myself to devote the bulk of my time to what I love to do, it’s not likely that anyone will be swept up by my work as passionately as I’d like. I am allowing myself to carry on with my yellow rubber glove project. It gets sneers from most people, or puzzled looks. But I am going to finish it unless I am physically unable to carry on. Maybe when it is done, I’ll believe I can do anything. Maybe for me this project is like a runner’s triathlon. One step at a time over the course of many days and months will carry you for miles, to a place that is not the same as the place you left, even if it looks the same. Maybe the accomplishment of such a huge task is the validation I need to believe I am worth my own time. I hope so.