At fourteen, I wanted to create art. Not because it was cool, or to impress anyone, but because I had, inside of me, something that needed to come out. I had a darkness that pushed on my flesh from the inside and never let me rest.
It’s sad to say, that someone so young could feel that broken. But, it’s true. Yet, telling you the truth is the last thing I want to do. And even though, quite frankly, I’m awfully tired of lying—it wears on me—it’s heavy; exhausting—I am afraid, still.
I’m afraid you’ll see me and leave. Not just see me, but really…see me.
In the last several years I’ve been on this journey. Sometimes, it looks like words on paper, sometimes, some thing else. And I have kept focused on the road with very few detours. Oh, okay, I had some detours. Who doesn’t? Mostly though, I tried to keep my eyes ahead, to not look back.
But something called out. When they said, “Be honest.” When they told me to be myself.
What if I don’t want to, I thought. What if I don’t know who that is?
But, that’s a lie. And I know the truth.
I am an artist.
I didn’t not know this. But yesterday I heard someone speaking about who an artist is, and I saw myself. I didn’t really want to. But I did. And art can take on all forms; writing is art. Certain forms of it more so than others. But to paint a picture–whether with acrylics or adjectives—is still rendering a view. There is something created, something new in the universe that wasn’t there before.
That is art.
And you know I always find it interesting how God speaks, and when, and through whom. This morning it was through my seventh grade art teacher, Sara Pitts. Her written words that have transcended time to speak to me now, some three decades after they were penned.
It was Christmas, 1984. The day before break she caught me as I was leaving the building, quickly stuffed a small envelope in my hands and smiled warmly. Her eyes were always dancing, but this time they were more solemn. I don’t remember, but I wonder if they were glassy, if she fought tears. Or did she even know the impact she would forever have in my life all because she saw me, she really saw me.
“Thanks,” I offered, acting adolescently casual. I shoved the envelope in my bag and pushed through the doors into the December cold. That evening I read them, held the crisp $10 bill she gave me. The money intended for me to purchase a cassette disc. I loved music, always. I still do.
I know I read the words then. I know they impacted me, especially because no one else in my struggling teenaged life seemed to give a rats. Her gesture of genuine kindness has always stuck with me. That letter has set in a box of things too precious for me to dispose of for over thirty years. Today, however, I read it differently. I saw it as if for the first time.
The meaning of the letter as a whole was to encourage me to follow my heart, to see myself for who I truly was, the way others saw me as well—as an artist.
She knew it would be hard, so she told me to have courage.
Be patient with myself.
But, ultimately, it whispered what she knew about my soul; it would thirst after art. Creating. Living the creation. And maybe, even having a career in art.
She said I was special. And I am. And, so are you. You artists. You creators. You dreamers and doers.
You who follow the beat of a different drum. You who see beauty in the places others miss.
I see this in my daughter, Holly. I see her finding so much true joy in creating art, and I pray that the world doesn’t steal that from her. Because I know it will try. It will tell her she isn’t good enough. It will say art is not acceptable as a career. It’s not honorable work. How can you survive doing art? Where will you live? What will you eat?
And while money is important in it’s own right, in its proper place, it is not an end in its self. It is simply a means. And a means will not fulfill. And those who try to stuff their square pegs into round holes will tell you this; no matter how you fold in on yourself, those rough edges just won’t fit. The world can press down, and pound away, but you will never be what you truly are not.
If you are an artist, you will never be satisfied until you are creating art.
You were made by a creator. The Grand Creator. And if you are knit together with threads of art and beauty, and the desire to recognize and create that, you will not ever be what you were made to be until you fully accept it.
So maybe you are an artist. And maybe you’re not. But if you are, listen to your heart. Stop fighting what your soul is so clearly thirsting for. Be yourself. Be real.
Live the art you were made to be.