I started a pet portrait last night. It is of an absolutely adorable westie, named Charlotte. It is my first commission in a while. A looong while. The beginning of the year is always slow for orders, but with the economy, it seems cute paintings of your pet are not high on the ol’ priority list. Seems that people want to do crazy things like pay their bills or feed their kids. Bah. Whatever. Hey, what’s a little Top Ramen when you can have a painting of Fifi at the beach hanging on your wall?!!? No, really I understand, I do. In February I took a full time job. My first one in 6 years. (the last one was fr a coll design studio and I lasted 4 months before I quit to paint pet portraits. “Hi Mom and Dad! You recovered from your duel heart attacks nicely!!”) And I am still wrapping my mind around this new job some days. Luckily I adore my job and my co-workers. I have the most amazing bosses and truly enjoy coming to work. Which freaks me out enough. I think it helps that I have been freelancing for this place for over 7 years. So it is familiar and comfortable and I really believe in the work I create. I juggle anywhere from 4 jobs to 10 jobs at any given time, deal with clients and vendors directly and best of all, I am trusted to handle it all. And ohmigod, they let me leave early every other week to get my kids from school! HELLO AWESOMENESS!! That makes me very loyal to this place. But still, there are days I long for my studio. My cute pink office with the hot pink curtains surrounded by art on every wall. I have amazing memories working there. I got rid of my studio and have an office at home that I have not even organized yet. It is a mess of boxes with a giant dog kennel in it. Only my computer is set up. In my mind I see an adorable, comforting place to work in, but I am not ready to create it yet. It is good that I have not had many commissions yet this year. It makes me feel like the choice to take this job was right. I struggled, lord how I struggled at first when the job opened up. It took probably a full month for my boss to really believe I wanted to go from part time to full time. I think the last she ever heard me say on the topic off full time employment was along the lines of “Heeeeeeell NO, do I want full time work! This girl is a FREE spirit, being in a cube 8 hours a day will KILL me! KILL ME! Did you hear me? HELL NO!” So yeah, I had to jump through a few hoops, go many extra miles just to convince her I was serious. Now, imagine doing all that when deep down you are scared to death about the decision.
I have been a freelancer since day one. I graduated art school 7 1/2 months preggers. Let’s just say potential employers aren’t exactly lining up to hire you when your belly bumps into them before they even see your portfolio. I LOVE the freelance life. I love hustling. I love knowing that every dime I made was from my own hard work. Oh my gosh, the highs, talk about a rush! There is nothing like getting that check in the bank just in time and the bills get paid and NOTHING bounces! There is nothing like it. And you are on top of the world. For a full TEN minutes sometimes. Then you begin to worry about the next bill, and the next job you need to get. And then there are the lows. Ouch. Like the days the check they promised doesn’t come in. The days you didn’t make it to the bank in time. The days the lights get turned off on a Friday and you can’t get them back until Monday. Oh, those days are no fun at all. And the nights you stay up for hours just thinking about how to juggle what little money you DO have so that everyone gets something and you can still feed your kids. And this is after having stayed up until 3pm to finish a gotta have it RUSH project by your client, just so you can submit an invoice that you won’t see the money from until 3 weeks from now IF you are LUCKY and IF they give it to the accountant on time (freelancers are the red-headed step children – we work the hardest get paid LAST.) Or how about the days there is a field trip coming up for both your kids that they need money for and you need gas and you need dog food? Why did I love this life again? Oh, right. Those ten minutes of high are THAT awesome! (this is why I don’t try drugs – I imagine I could be in trouble) And I did that for SO many years. But it was worth it. I got to stay home with my kids for 3 1/2 years when they were babies. I got to have the highs and the satisfaction of knowing I did it all on my own. I opened up a studio, ran and art school for kids for a while, and for almost 6 years have been selling original paintings all over the United States.
And I will never stop painting. Ever. And I am about to start advertising my art again. And I have commercial projects in the works that are being considered and having many, many meetings over. And hell, I have a BOOK out! (Have you bought yours yet? No? What the hell are you waiting for??? I don’t want to be in this damn cube FOREVER!!! GO BUY IT NOW! Heh. Just kidding. Not really – go!)
Which brings me to my point – especially for the others out there that want to eventually escape the cube. This process is NOT linear. There is no shortest point to get from the cube to working for yourself. It takes time. It takes creativity. Multiple income streams. Figuring out what you are willing to sacrifice to be your won boss. Deciding if you are ready to not have job security any more. Nothing happens overnight. Not even if you DO get Oprah’s attention. I guarantee you that before who ever did find their way to Oprah and her show, they struggled for YEARS before the timing was right. You do what you do because you love it. You map out a dream and follow it the best you can. Life will simply not follow all your directions. Sometimes it will. Oh, and the sweetness when it does! When you know you are on the path and every single piece of the puzzle falls into place and you know DAMN well the Big Man is on your side, because it feels like he is holding your hand along the way. But then sometimes the path veers and it veers so far away from what you love, what was working, from a life that you had created through blood, sweat and tears and you can’t for the life of you figure out why God is doing this to you. And that? Oh, it is so hard. And you cry, and you cry some more and you try harder. And harder. And harder. And still it won’t work. And finally you give in. You have to. Because life just is that way. And if you keep fighting it you get more and more miserable and the perfect life you were loving and so grateful for isn’t perfect anymore because for whatever reason you are being taken down another road. And I am on another road. One I thought with all my heart I would never be on.
And I finally gave in and decided not to fight it and see the wonderfulness in it. I have no idea how long I will be here. And lord knows I am still doing my thing on nights and weekends and my dreams are still there, real as ever. I write about them, draw them, dream about then. And I know they WILL happen. I know it. And I will never give up on them. But in the meantime I am here in a cube, hurrying up this entry before I need to get to work. And I love this job. I love the people. And I would be a liar, liarhead if I said I didn’t love my nice fat paycheck. Ohmigod! Money!! EVERY month! Deposited RIGHT INTO MY BANK ACCOUNT! And all I have to do is show up for work and do my job. And the insurance? I can not only break every damn finger if I want and have it PAID for, but I can even get my teeth cleaned – for like $15 dollars!!!! And people? There is FREE coffee here! EVERY DAMN DAY! And the sweetest woman on earth MAKES it for us. Like MAGIC. And I laugh all day long, get to design cool stuff and my coworkers know all about my art life. Just yesterday my boss’ boss’ boss (got that? three tiers up) was in my office joking with me and I gave him a copy of my book. He insisted he pay for it. I said, ‘Sounds good!’ – Hey he makes big bucks he can afford it!) So I am in a place where I can share my dreams at the same time as make money for my family. And I am thinking this 9-5 life is not as horrible as I have made it out to be. Perhaps you cube people are quite clever with your paychecks, insurance and stability…
So right now I am not steering the ship. And I am ok with it. And I guess I have to just admit that I was never steering in the first place. So any of you out there feeling like your dream is never going to happen? Don’t you believe that crap for a second! Just keep plugging along. Do it because you must, because you love it. It will happen. We just don’t get to say when it will happen or how it will happen. But I promise you this, if you do not give up, it HAS to happen. Perseverance is what it is all about. Keep putting yourself out there, keep creating, keep trying. The only way you can fail is if you quit. I PROMISE.
Oh. And if by chance you are the lucky .0001% of people that ARE overnight successes and Oprah found you after you mailed her your manuscript written out in a longhand in that spiral notebook and she loved it so much that she single-handedly got you published, put you on her show as soon as it was on the shelves and you now have a dream life after just trying one measly time? WE ALL HATE YOU. Go away. (Just kidding. We love you, we want to be friends with you, we want to have lunch dates with you. And have you introduce us to Oprah.)