Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When I grow up, I want to be...

Some people never get to try out the profession they dreamed about as a kid. Especially if you wanted to be an astronaut, President of the United States, secret agent or action movie star. Thanks to me being born with the best parents on the entire planet, I've had the chance to take a stab at making a living doing what I wanted to do since I was four, or at least I've been laboring under that notion for the last five years.

As a kid, I collected Mike Venezia's Greatest Artist books for children. I gobbled them up, absorbing all of the details about the extraordinary lives of artists. Only recently I realized that I didn't just want to be an artist so that I could create things; I envisioned myself living a life full of mystery, excitement and adventure. Cavorting with expatriate writers on the French Riviera while working on my next masterpiece; spending each spring in Paris to capture the beauty of the blooming city on my canvas; accidentally going days without food because I was fed enough by life itself.

None of my dreams included pricing artwork, marketing myself and my art, customer service, shipping, postage fees or crafting, let alone doing all of this in my studio/bedroom that I've lived in since I was six, let alone in New Jersey.

I always try to tell myself that I'm living my dream- I'm making money (not a living, really, but money. If I didn't live at home, there's no way on earth that I'd be making enough for rent) as an artist. "An artist"... but that's not really what I am. I'm a businesswoman. I spend about one hour every three weeks actually drawing or painting, while almost all of my time is consumed with listing things on etsy, corresponding with customers, packing orders, ordering supplies, making products and marketing those products on my social networking sites. This is not being an artist. This, unfortunately, is actually the LAST thing I ever wanted to do.

My parents have always been in business for themselves. When my dad was 22 years old, he already owned his own record store with a friend. Around 1980, he and my mom opened the business that they have now, a music t-shirt mail order company. Growing up in this atmosphere, I saw the strain that it placed on my parents and the stress that a career in customer service can cause. Keeping inventory, packing orders, corresponding with customers... these were the things that my parents did full time, that I hated growing up. And that's what I'm doing now. It's really a cruel irony.

I have fantasies of my flapper drawings turning into some kind of Hello Kitty phenomenon, being printed on little girls' backpacks and school binders; grown women getting excited to see a Flapper Doodle cell phone case or cake pan. But the steps it would take to get there just aren't for me. Unless some company swooped in and asked to license my flappers, I really can't see myself doing this for the rest of my life. And I don't want to be 40 when I finally realize that I'm living the same life that caused my parents so much stress.

If you're a fan, don't worry, I'm not stopping the flappers. I just need to reevaluate my life and figure out what I really want to do. I doubt that professional grapefruit juice taster or full time movie watcher are real professions, so I'm kind of drawing a blank.

I don't want all of my hard work over the last few years to completely go to waste, but I don't want five years' work dictating what I do for the rest of my life, either. Ideally, I really would like to be that artist drifting from European country to European country, staying up all hours of the night discussing philosophy with other crazy people like me. But I'm finally realizing my dream is as unlikely as becoming an astronaut, President of the United States or a secret agent.

I guess I just have to start from scratch and figure out what I really want to be, when I grow up.