If you read my first post you know I wanted to be a writer from the time I could hold a pencil. But when the time came, I went to the University of Waterloo for Biochemistry because I thought it was safe and the outcome was known and predictable. Basically I went for the money.
Life is funny, so the joke is that I never made much money in working in the field of science. It wasn't my passion so I stopped my education after my Honours Bachelor of Science was completed. I enjoyed working with students, I liked the process, and the hands-on aspect of research can be very enjoyable. But I didn't care about the results. I enjoyed the practice more than the outcomes.
Why did I think the money was in hard science instead of writing?
When I was growing up there was one yardstick to measure success: how much money you could make.
The family I grew up with wasn't poor but with 5 little girls to raise, money was a bit tight. There was no lack, but there was no Disney World either.
My other family, that I didn't grow up in, was very different. During my impressionable years of 6 to 12, my Dad paid to fly me across the country to visit them. One year we all met in Disney World instead of Alberta.
In one family, my mom was a secretary and my stepdad was a truck driver.
In my other family, my dad was an engineer and my stepmother had a high tech job and was a bit of an heiress. Their house was bigger and had less than half of the people in it than my family home had.
At home, vacations were local and we stayed in tents or trailers. Occasionally a cramped cottage. Sleeping in a tent was just as fun as sleeping in a five star hotel -- just a different kind of fun. The kind of fun of flashlights in the dark, made up games, and searching for the perfect marshmallow stick versus the indoor pools and pancake houses that were hallmarks of vacations with my Dad.
At home, it was always chaos: our house burst at the seams with people and some kind of game or fight was either in progress or about to be. I was never alone. Never bored.
Games at my Dad's house were quiet and cerebral and nobody ever cried or argued and refused to finish the game. I slept on my own in the guest room and I always got to pick the Kool-Aid flavour.
I didn't enjoy myself any more in one location over the other. The experiences were so different, they could hardly be compared.
But I knew there was a difference for my parents. My mom was mostly in a rush, exhausted and stressed (as a kid you never think you are the cause!) and my dad appeared serenely jovial, languidly at ease, even decadent in his demeanor.
It was obvious to me which life was easier. Neither of my parents ever talked about happiness as a measure of success. We didn't talk about following your passion, or the joy to be gained from doing something you love. I think my Dad did love his job, he was a born tinker and his work was an extension of this passion to see how things worked. But it was also a well-paying passion, and that always seemed like the most important factor.
Both from observation, and the messaging from my parents, I decided that trying to be a writer was a financial risk, and ultimately I was afraid to take it.
Twenty-two years later I have been away from science for twelve years and work successfully, and profitably, for a financial company. I still get ideas for stories I want to tell. But now I think about how I can tell them using pictures. Breaking away from the income yardstick that is my parent's legacy has been difficult and I am not ready to break it over my knee quite yet but going back to school (and damn the cost and time it will take) feels like an important step.
I am mostly going back to school for the joy of it. It is a second chance to explore the abandoned path of my youth, and a peak at the future that, with more courage, I might have had.
I am also going back for the credentials. Having the conversation with potential mentors or clients about being a self-taught artist is not an easy one. Continuing without a BFA feels a bit scary. Am I trading one fear for another?
Regardless, back to school I go and I am so excited about it. Plus, if you break it down financially, I am spending a couple thousand dollars per year on courses with professional artists (which is amazing and I highly recommend seeking out artists and community schools where you can learn) but these don't add up to any designation that I can really add to a CV.
My fear of poverty is vanquished. Perhaps my fear of the bohemian is my next big battle.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment and tell about the fears you have had to conquer to find your way.