A message to my 20 year old self.

A few friends and I were sitting around at lunch, in between classes. We were a hop, skip and a jump away from leaving this idyllic, art centered womb, so naturally the topic of the future would find its way to the table. One girl was asked about what she wanted to do and a dreamy smile broke out on her lovely face. A spoonful of yogurt hovered at her chin.

“Paint.” She took the bite and continued. “Just paint whatever I want, whenever I want.”

I gaped at the audacity of this answer. How completely and utterly impractical! How would you pay for food? For anything? I was twenty, fearful and insecure, and didn’t have the emotional maturity to look inward and ask myself why her answer elicited such a negative response in me.

Took my little one back to our alma mater last year and here we are visiting the Nature Lab (not the aforementioned cafeteria).


Decades later, I’m just now beginning to understand. I couldn’t believe that someone could be brave enough to admit to herself what she, and what so many of the wide-eyed, idealistic kids filling the cafeteria that afternoon, wanted. She wanted to create without rules, without assignments, without obligations. Just her art, with her unique voice and point of view.

At that point, I hadn’t created anything for the sake of just doing it. That felt like a luxury for people who were already successful, and I hadn’t earned the privilege.

I do this alot, tell myself – you haven’t done enough. You aren’t enough.

(I’m working on it.)

So for the first time in my life, I didn’t paint for anyone else but me. There certainly was no intention of selling it, despite my dear friends’ suggestions. For the first time in my life, I was creating work that needed to come out and that was the only goal. When that old, critical voice piped up- no one’s gonna want this– I’d snap back- this is just for me!

As it turns out, when one “allows” oneself to create something with this sort of pure intention, the joy that this action brings is palpable to others, and they might actually pay for it. Which I suppose isn’t really the point of this message to my 20 year old self. I suppose the point is, when you create from an authentic place, the well that this creativity comes from can’t run dry. Not only does it become easier to create, opportunities open up because you’re building on important, applicable skills. You get better and better at it, making the earning part of the goal easier to achieve.

But for now, in the wise words of this small child, don’t be concerned about whether you’re gonna sell it, or whether you’ll be super famous and successful for your incredible art. For now, “worry bout yoself.”