From the ages of four to 11, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I knew I had the talent for it, because my parents told everyone I did, proudly exclaiming: “she knew how to draw a perfect circle when she was only two years old!” The evidence for this lay in the musty Webster’s dictionary on our bookshelf, where I had maniacally produced round heads dotted with eyes all over the inside pages. For a few years I specialized in portraiture and imagined my future career as a sketch artist in the neighbourhood mall. I dreamed big in those days.
Then grade seven arrived and I learned that other people were far better at drawing than me. So I switched to my fallback option and decided I would become a writer. Then a screenwriter. Then an actress. Then…well, by that time I was headed for university to pursue a liberal arts degree and all I cared about was getting that piece of paper and finding a decent job.
In the last few years I’ve been trying to recapture the freedom I felt as a kid. When I could be anything, when no one uttered a discouraging word and when finances didn’t even cross my mind. It’s always easier to start the soul-searching process by starting with the self-help section at Chapters, though, and I’ve found comfort reading and re-reading two books in particular: The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry. The Artist’s Way was particularly useful for a time in my life when I was panic-stricken at not remembering how to be creative. I had limited myself to a life where all that largely mattered were grades, employment and academic/corporate jargon. I felt stifled, but could not understand why. The Artist’s Way imparts wisdom and exercises for battling one’s inner critic and perfectionism. I find it reassuring to read time-to-time because it speaks so well to the frustrations I’ve felt growing up. I love returning to The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People because a) the title is such a refreshing change from typical career guidance books and b) it’s a handy reminder that the career options in the creative field are only limited by one’s own imagination.
I’ve also taken a cue from Woody Allen and decided to go with “whatever works”. A few months ago I came up with an idea for a TV series. Do I know anything about writing for television or creating a serial? No. Does pursuing this interest mean that my future career aspirations will be in television? Maybe. The point is not to obsess over the end result, but to enjoy the process.*
I am still hoping for the day to come when I open the door and discover the perfect career waiting for me on the other side, tied with a neat bow. It’s the one you might read about it in a feature story from Chatelaine, ELLE or FASHION Magazine, where they interview the woman who has discovered her dream job, where it “doesn’t even feel like going to work!” Sometimes I wonder if this is the new fairytale for the modern yuppie. It’s not enough to meet the One. Now some of us need to be lucky enough to find the Perfect Career. And a creative one, at that.
*Hah, or at least that is what I am trying to do anyway. I have an impatient personality and tend towards a lot of hand-wringing over the future.