I used to treat myself like a soldier in training. I used to have regimens that would wake me up at 5am so I would write and make sure I didn’t enjoy such silly, frivolous things like going out to dinner with my family or friends. Enjoying myself, I truly believed, was a waste of time. I can look back and laugh at myself about that now. But most of it, still, I don’t find funny. I was so paralyzingly anxious, for so many years. I was determined to have the equivalent success of Mozart from a young age, and this manifested in an unbelievable amount of stress that nearly killed me. Why did I think that artists lived painful, short, terrible lives, and that only through suffering could one make great art?
As a semi-adult, I now understand that my idea of what it means to be an artist, and how one gets there, was completely wrong. Neither of my parents would ever take the huge step to proclaim themselves as artists of any kind. And so, combining their focus on academics and achievement, doused with a sprinkle of the worst, most damaging ideas of the self-esteem movement, and voila! One crazy, driven, tormented teenager, who thought they were doing everything right, but was really digging themselves an early grave.
Only a decade and a half later, in a session with my wonderful therapist, Barbara, I finally apologized to that young, scared me, and forgave her. Young me was trying to protect me. Young me wanted the best for me. But she just didn’t know any artists. She didn’t know how artists lived, or what artists did, or how artists had fun. She hadn’t yet read The Artist’s Way. She hadn’t yet discovered that creativity is beautiful, a spiritual child, that needed nurturing and love and patience and compassion and gentleness.
So, today, I am still learning how to be an artist, of letting that fun and that creative energy into my life.
This piece was from my first time in the UnMute writing series, led by Ann Randolph, January 2022.