I’m feeling more and more these days that life is supposed to be a grand experiment in how much we can learn, and I’m finding it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But, more often than not, the pain and frustration leads to exhilaration.
Any attempt to grow will undoubtedly reveal our shortcomings. All the reasons that we should maintain our status quo start screaming at us like Janet Leigh in the shower scene in Psycho. But, to achieve a well lived life, to advance, to become smarter, more capable, we have to move ahead despite the inner protests. We need to push. I mean, that’s what they tell women at the end of childbirth to do right? PUSH! Any endeavor, any growth, any attempt at bringing new energy to ourselves, to the world requires us to push.
I just did something absolutely frightening. I took what is a relaxing hobby of mine and brought it to the next level. I love taking pictures. I take them everywhere I go and I go a lot of places. Even when I’m not traveling, I will sit in my backyard and take pictures of the birds or the sky or my feet or whatever strikes me. Taking pictures for me is a meditation. It takes my mind off of things and puts me in the moment.
But recently, on a lark I submitted some of my photos for a group show in New York. I forgot about it and went about my life. Then suddenly one night I got the email. Three of my photos were chosen for the exhibit. Then came the hard part. They needed to be printed, framed and shipped within five days.
The good feeling of being chosen quickly gave way to panic, doubt and bad internal dialogue. “It’s going to cost alot. Maybe they just can’t find any good pictures so they picked mine. Oh, why bother, it’s just a hobby, it’s not really what I do anyway.” And the big one for me: “I represent visual artists, what if they think I suck, or worse, what if they think I want to do what they do and not what I do.”
All my thoughts were untrue, except the cost a lot part. It cost a lot. But, I found that growth comes at a cost and sometimes it’s a lot. Not just financially, but emotionally, spiritually and even physically.
I figured it out. I asked a client who does gallery shows where to go for printing. The printers knew a framer. They lined it up and also handled the shipping. I gave them files on Tuesday, they printed, framed and shipped on Friday.
Adrienne and I flew to New York on the folllowing Monday. Thanks Adrienne, you kept me sane! On Tuesday, I stopped by the gallery to make sure all had arrived intact. Luckily, it had. There were things I was unhappy with. One of the photographs was printed too contrasty for my liking (I was now becoming the picky, petulant, ever unsatisfied artist,) the frames were good, but not really what I wanted, etc. I was just picking it all apart.
Mind you, I had approved everything before it left LA. I realized this was just part of the angst of the push. See, pushing is never perfect and it’s never comfortable. It’s just about growth and I was 2nd guessing it all. Everything from submitting the photographs, to the cost, to taking the pictures in the first place.
The opening was Thursday night. I was a wreck. My nervousness subsided once things got going. There were so many people there and so many people that I had invited showed up to support me. I had relatives, friends and whoa… clients.
It was all well recieved. There were other photographs in the show that were really great, but I didn’t get all judgy about it and didn’t get all crazy about people being judgy about my work. No one thought I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I was just there learning what it’s like to be in a group show in a gallery. Nothing more, nothing less. Another experience and another opportunity to learn something.
When I was a kid, I hated school. I wasn’t good at it. I resented all of the forced learning I had to do. I just wanted to live, play and have a good time. What I’ve come to find well into my life is that learning (even forced learning) is what it’s all about. Learning actually is the living, playing and having a good time. If you’re not learning and actively participating in your growth you’re just watching your life drift by.
Embrace the push. Embrace the pain. Embrace leaving your comfort zone. Embrace failing and embrace trying again. Embrace the imperfection of a first attempt, a second attempt, any attempt, because so many people won’t attempt at all. Embrace getting through it. Embrace the joy that comes from knowing there are people loving you through it and rooting for you to succeed. Embrace the learning and the growth. Embrace the push.