Growing up I always thought there was a right way and a wrong way to do life. And I was always terrified that I was going to be that person who did all the things wrong and ended up in an ally somewhere living in a cardboard box. If you ask me what my biggest fear in life is, I will tell you one word: failure.
To me that meant losing my job, my ability to provide for myself and ending up homeless and smelly and wearing someone else's donated clothing. This image of my future life, had I picked all the wrong things, started when I was in elementary school.
We live our whole young lives preparing ourselves for adulthood. I believed it was my duty to go through school, graduate, continue on to college, graduate, get a job, get married and live happily ever after. I honestly had never planned on what to do after I was married other than be fabulously rich and travel the world, which, obviously, is still going to happen. ;)
But on a serious note, I have been learning and relearning that the world does not work in rights and wrongs like my brain initially thought. And when I lost my teaching position last year it rocked me down to my core. I had to learn to shake the feelings of failure and convince myself that this was not the end of the line and that I was not going to end up in a dirty refrigerator box somewhere.
If I'm being honest though, that was a change for me that I had never planned to go through. I mourned my lost position and cried myself to sleep, scared and wondering what I was going to do with myself once my contract was up and I was no longer getting paid a teacher's salary. As low as a teacher's salary might be in this state, it was still more money than I'd ever made in my life.
Plus, I have bills to pay and an apartment to care for and it was all piling on the pressure so fast. Sometimes if I sat and thought about what was happening to me, my chest would get all tight and I wouldn't be able to breathe. So I did what I knew I had to do.
I went back to the restaurant where I worked last year and finished out this summer doing the same thing I did back then - managing nights. And then when the summer ended I just stayed on staff because at least it was income and the atmosphere and the people are great. It is truly a good place to work.
And then I got all this art stuff and chalkboard things to help out on the side.
I was all sorts of certain that I was going to fail. That this was a step backwards for me and that this was somehow "wrong." But if I've learned anything, it's that life never does what you want it to. Just because I'm not teaching this year doesn't mean that unemployment and back ally living are in my future. I'm smart and resourceful and something is always provided to allow me to take care of myself and to pay for the things I need to pay for.
It's in the realm of authenticity too, these life lessons that keep showing up. I feel like I am maybe more myself than I have been when I was trying to convince myself that I was a teacher. I am much better at being an artist and creating the things people look at than I felt I was at conveying to other people how to produce a great work of art. Partly because I am maybe still figuring that out myself.
To go from school straight into a career I felt like I was skipping a step. I have always been a step skipper, if we're being honest. If I can smash two steps together, I probably will. So part of me was proud of myself for going right into the career path and part of me was kind of exhausted and I've been telling myself since my sophomore year of college that I just wanted to take a year to not be in school. To not have homework. To not have to worry about being in the school system.
But then life happens, and job opportunities come up and it would be stupid not to take a full time salaried position that is standing right in front of you, so I kind of went against myself and took the job anyway. And what I've realized in the past couple of months is that maybe losing that job was actually good for me.
It has forced me to bend in ways that I didn't think I could. This path has started to show me what I'm really made of and it's begged me to at least start to question what I really want to do with my life. I've known from the beginning that I wanted to be an artist - but I also knew that I never wanted to end up like van Gogh, or become that typical starving artist. So I never truly believed that art could take me where I actually wanted to go - which is all around the world, if you remember. And yet, here I am, working in a restaurant (stereotypical job liberal arts majors end up doing!) but still creating and sometimes getting paid for it.
The more art jobs I do the more I am realizing that that is where my heart is. It's where my passion lies. I feel the most at home when I am creating something with my hands. It allows me to think in ways that I don't get to when I'm doing something else. Now, if I could only get paid for blogging as well. HA!
I haven't been 24 for very long, but it already feels like it's going to be a year about shedding my layers. It's going to be a year about doing the things I want to do because I want to do them and not because I feel obligated to do what everyone else is telling me, or at least what I perceive everyone else is telling me to do.
I have always wondered how old you have to be before you're really an adult. Sometimes I still feel a little like a child, striving for approval from other people and unable to make my own decisions. But you know what? The only approval I need is my own, really, and I am more than capable of making my own decisions. It is a process, to learn to live unapologetically and out loud, but it will be beyond worth it.
This is the journey to becoming myself and every day brings me one step closer.