What did I have to lose?
Fifteen years ago, I was in my second year of college and all over the place trying to work out where my future was headed. I thought about being a nutritionist because of my interest in health, and I also considered going into the IT field, with a degree in CIS. Some of my family had gone in that direction, so it seemed like a good option.
One day my best friend, Jason, asked me if I wanted to accompany him to see his friend, who happened to be a psychic. At the time, I thought psychics were a bunch of bunk, but he was so adamant about her abilities and even offered to pay for a block of time with her. What did I have to lose?
I had no agenda, expectations, or anything specific on my mind, but I can vividly remember the first question she asked me: “What do you want to do in life?” I told her about the different paths I was considering, and she said, “Nah, you wouldn’t be happy in those fields. Have you ever thought about going into the arts?” Up until then, I hadn’t.
Sure, I enjoyed creative activities, but it never crossed my mind to go in that direction. I wasn’t any good at art. I also come from a heritage and community that strongly encourages careers in science and math. This instilled the idea that certain fields were more admirable and advantageous in life – and art wasn’t one of them. The Indian community frowned upon the arts, and it certainly wasn’t going to increase my chances of finding a wife. Telling your future in-laws that you were an artist would have been the kiss of death and not a smart move. (That’s a story for another blog post.)
Even though the arts are discouraged, I’m convinced there are quite a few members of my family that were born with the “art gene.” Many of my family members find drawing natural and easy, and have exceptional artistic skill. I, on the other hand, can barely read my own handwriting most of the time. I was confident I did not possess this gene.
The Art Gene
Paintings by my late uncle, who didn’t start painting until retirement!
Paintings by my brother when he was in high school. He hasn’t painted in almost twenty years!
A beautiful painting by my aunt.
The psychic was confident and persistent. She wasn’t just saying, “You should consider an artistic career. Maybe look into it.” She flat out said, “What are you doing? Take a class. Do it. Sign up tomorrow.” She was convinced that I would enjoy my life more if I did. She didn’t promise that I would be good at it or discover that I had some hidden gift.
So, I signed up for a class – again, what did I have to lose?
I enjoyed it! A lot. I honestly don’t know if I would have gone into the creative field without that first nudge, and I most definitely would not have signed up for a class.
I continued to enjoy the program, loved my new direction and graduated with a BFA in Digital Design. As a graduate, it wasn’t an easy road. It’s a tough and competitive field. I now really appreciate the teachers that were trying to weed out those students who wouldn’t have been able to survive in the real world, not because of a lack of talent, but because the mental strain would be too much.
Shortly after graduating, I was beginning to doubt whether I had picked the right field. I tried everything I could, including volunteering my services for free so that I could build my portfolio. I paid a visit to someone whom I admired, who had his own business and was very successful. I sought out advice and asked whether he thought I should consider a different career choice. I was questioning if perhaps it was time to throw in the towel on design and look for a more “practical job”. He steadied my fears and gave me the courage to press on. He told me to stick with design because it was my passion, and doing something you love creates a happiness that overflows into your personal life. In the same way, doing a job you hate can have negative consequences that reach beyond work.
I’m so thankful that I stayed true to myself and pursued a career in the creative field. From that point on, I didn’t care how much money I made, I just wanted to enjoy what I was doing. For anyone reading this who can relate to my story, who has been holding back because you – like me – weren’t born with the “art gene,” my message is simple: don’t let that stop you. Find something you love, and stay the course.
I imagine if I didn’t go into a creative field, and asking myself the same question – what did I have to lose by staying in technology or science? I would lose a part of me that is creative, fulfilling, and true to who I am. I would have lost myself.