I used to be an artist.
I used to wear all black, all the time. Seriously. I wore it because it was easy. I didn't want to worry about fashion or "matching" or anything like that. There was a point in my life when I could do 3 loads of laundry, and it would ALL be black.
Wearing black does not make one an artist.
It was a part of me, though. A person's style is a part of who they are. I didn't want to worry about my clothes because I was too busy being an artist. I went to poetry readings. I stayed up in all-night diners writing poetry. I created masks and wrote plays. I performed in "open stage night" at the local university theatre. I spelled "theatre" with an -re.
What the hell happened? I woke up one day and had an art room full of unused stuff. I woke up and barely saw myself in the mirror, because I was up at 5am to get ready for work, and the sun wasn't up yet. I woke up one day, and had nothing more to say. I had no poetry, no plays, no ideas.
I don't think I've ever felt as depressed as I did on that day.
And now everything is affecting me badly. I watch the news and see mothers protesting the war because their sons died there. I listen to Ben Folds sing about how he took his girlfriend to the abortion clinic. I sit around at work, hating the stupid part of the work I have to do, and loving the "with kids" part. I sit around and think about how it just isn't worth it to waste your life doing what you hate.
But what do I love?
Do I love art? Do I love creation? Or do I love forming words and phrases into thoughts? What do I want to do all day?
All of the answers come back to my daughter. The art room stopped when she got busier. She is growing older, and is demanding more and more time. I feel compelled to teach her how to be a good person. This compulsion tells me that I am a good mother; I have no problem with this. However, all the things I used to love, the things that took up so much of my time, have fallen wayside, because I want to spend time with her.
The dilemma, then, is this: How can I teach her to be a fabulous, intelligent, deep-thinking person if I'm not behaving that way? I can't do all the things that (I thought) made me the person that I am, because I'm spending time with my child. How can I reconcile this?
And do you know, this started four years before she was born? That's because I started graduate school. That's when all the art stuff went out the window. I had absolutely no time for it. And right after I graduated, I became pregnant. And then she was born. And that was it.
Since I went back to work, which was 2 years ago, I've been consumed with making money. I need to make more money so I can be with my family. To make more money, I have decided that I need to be self-employed. Trading my time for dollars isn't working; there aren't enough dollars in the coffer. If I am self-employed, there is no limit to the dollars, if I pursue it intelligently.
The risk is much greater, however. At which point I have to ask myself: which is the greater risk, losing oneself and being a horrible example for my daughter, or taking that risk and showing my daughter what great things can happen if a person takes risks? I've been thinking far, far too small, lately. Far, far too small.
It doesn't matter what kind of person I was. What matters is that I now behave as the person I want my daughter to admire.
I'm working on it.