In another lifetime, you would have found me meandering around art shows perusing paintings, admiring pottery and wishing I had enough money to buy the whole collection of metal wind sculptures. To say I was into art was a vast understatement. For years I drew and painted and sculpted and threw pots. My passion was humorous illustration and my circle of friends thought I was pretty good; although some people raved, always saying I’d be a famous artist, I didn’t grow much beyond being a big fish in a pretty tight fitting pond. Back then, I used to talk a pretty good game about being in animation. I loved cartoons and animated flicks.
One day, I found myself living in the same city with a major animation studio. Although I was young, at that time, I had been drawing for fifteen years. I was self- taught and had sold some of my work. Currently, I was between jobs and hoping to make a lot more income with whatever talent I had.
After gathering my best work and refreshing my portfolio, I called and set an appointment with the biggest animation studio in the city. And state. Maybe even the country. I patted myself on the back with how brave I had been. I thought about all the people that I wanted to tell about it but I held off. I had been talking about animation for such a long time—years—this seemed like the natural next step. Now the opportunity was right in front of me.
Almost immediately, I began to fret. What if I don’t have what they’re looking for? What if I they don’t like what they see? What if they didn’t like me? What if, what if what if?
This was the make it or break it moment. This was my big shot. If I didn’t do it now, the dream would die and it would be the end of my illustration career. I was going to find out if I had what it takes to be a full-time animator.
In the time between the call and the interview, I considered a great many things. The endless repeating and drawing on celluloid, with barely discernible movement to the naked eye… The traffic. The hours. The city where I lived. I considered the pay, the job itself. Even though I didn’t have a computer yet, it was the next major purchase we were about to make. I looked at my portfolio a number of times. Is this really what I want to do with my life?
On the morning of my appointment, I called them and cancelled. Strangely, I had a lot of peace about it. I stopped talking about working as an animation/ illustrator. Even though I’ll never know what they might have said, I don’t regret my decision.
You might be thinking that I just couldn’t muster the courage to show up. While in part, that may have been true, something else was at work and we’ll get to that in a minute. It’s funny how a lot of voices can lead us down certain paths. All my life I’d been told I was an artist. It was effortless, and comfortable most of the time.
Was I an artist because I wanted to be? Maybe I had been slotted and just rolled with it. It fit well enough for a very long time. I had enough talent to pursue it for years. There were perks to be sure. But there were tells all along the way that led me to believe this was not my true calling.
If the studio said I wasn’t good enough I knew I’d quit. But, if I quit because I wanted to pursue other things, that was my choice. No one could say that the choice had been made for me. I realized I didn’t need to know what they thought.
Something about my decision that day made me believe that I had the seeds of a different life inside. It had me thinking about what else was out there. I didn’t think much about it until then. That day, I wanted to choose my career path myself.
We’re all motivated by different things. Part of my reason for cancelling was that I didn’t like the city we were living in. If I got the job I’d be stuck there. That day marked a fork in the road. While the tines of my fork ran parallel for another ten years, I began paying more attention to what worked for me. What actually made me happy. I was suprised to find out it wasn’t creating art. Somewhere along the line, I let go of the paint brush and the potter’s wheel for the keyboard and (to the regret of many) I’ve never looked back.
Now when opportunities arise, I ask myself these questions:
Am I doing this thing because I want to?
Am I failing to do something because not doing it is what I really want?
Am I not doing something because I’m afraid?
What about you? Are you the best version of yourself or is there still something inside that wants to break out?