2016 has been a crazy, and somewhat unrewarding year so far. A big part of me couldn’t be surprised that after everything that was accomplished in 2015, 2016 just sort of…arrived. What’s worse, I stopped being particularly good at handling the stress of paying rent (for the first time), working full-time (which recently went through a huge stressful period, but is otherwise super fabulous), planning my wedding (which is expensive), and trying to be in a masters program. So, I’m in the process of filing for a year off from it. For that reason it’s been a really tough week.
I thought I could handle it. I thought all I needed to do was “endure,” because I didn’t think I had any other options. “If I quit school, I have to pay my loans” was the biggest reason to stay in my program. I’d been struggling against whelm and apathy about it since last fall when I had to take some online classes I loathed. As the fall progressed, I got to get into some actual Art Therapy classes, which helped…but at the turn of the year I had to take a semester-long prerequisite that’s a long ways away from home and included some terrible drives in inclement Minnesota weather, and I had to try to fit in two classes at once, and also a new practicum which needed 100 hours and took up all my extra days and evenings that I could spare. So suddenly I was never home, I was constantly tense waiting for the next busy period where I had nothing but a protein shake for dinner, I was poor and had no option of making more money because I was too busy for a second job, and I was scooping out of a mostly empty pot of energy being stretched thinner and thinner and feeling like there was no payoff from any of it.
I was driving home from work one day and I realized the only thing my fiance and I could do was “Endure.” There was nothing to look forward to today, or next week, just…next year, and the years following, when I finished this dumb program and got a career, and maybe we’d have kids, and so on.
So I realized that I needed to make a new Emotia painting. I wanted to express the beautiful, grind my teeth anger involved in just….enduring. In knowing that there will be a payoff, somewhere.
But what emerged from the painting is an expression of how well I ended up being able to endure after all. In a way, since it was completed some 5 hours before my breaking point, it was a harbinger for ripping out that handful of feathers, the beautiful but challenging parts of my life I realized needed to be purged for now. The piece is pretty dark – strong, but dark. Because when I realized that I didn’t want to endure anymore, I kind of broke. Kind of in the same way as the girl in this painting. She’s not broken, but she was definitely falling apart. I see the feathers she’s clutching in her fists and I see how I realized that something had to give.
Unfortunately for me and my recent goals, that something was graduate school.
I haven’t been prioritizing school for at least 6 months lately. What I have been prioritizing is my relationship, and my workplace, and my finances. School has been a nuisance at best, and a source of intense stress at worst. School has meant looking at my upcoming week and seeing my two nights that I’ll be home, one of which I’d actually be home with my fiance, and I’d just get this strong resentment for how long this program would take and how little it was adding to my life.
Tuesday night (after working on this painting for two nights!) something stupid triggered a panic attack and after four hours of buildup my parents ended up at my apartment in the middle of the night because they were the only ones who could calm me down. I’d totally lost it (see: the blood on the wings) and the only thing I wanted to change was school.
The hardest part about this is due to the stock that I’ve always put in education. I was so great in my undergrad I never had to think twice about whether I could be successful at it. … Because all I had to do was homework. All I needed to worry about was research projects. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t bother with relationships, and didn’t think about money. As an adult, with so many other things I care about, school doesn’t pay off like that right now. It’s expensive, and exhausting, and SLOW.
So, for now, for a year I’ll say, I’m done. I’m going to gather my bearings. I’m going to endure this interim, and keep my goals, and enjoy the rest of my life. I’ll be stronger when I go back to school, and I’ll be ready for it. But I’m certainly not now.
This Endure piece is lovely. I so dig it. It’s a natural progression from the previous three. The third was an awakening, and this one is definitely awake…and struggling. I’m heading where I want to get, but it’s really painful. It’s beautiful – hence the feathers – but riddled with sacrifices.
I’m so proud of this fricking lineart too. I did the lineart in one organic, intuitive sitting. I had sketched this pose, and then gone, ugh, it’s so simple, and then started a new one, and then opened this pose again and decided FUCK IT I like how it looked. I really thought the coloring would hang me up because of how labor-intensive it would be, but I just kinda got it. I knew what the feathers should look like, and each one was a few quick strokes. I figured out the color scheme when I sketched it, and I also developed that awesome mesh look on her cleavage and her sleeve, and I was like UM YES.
Here are the other Emotias. You can see that I’m still within the spectrum of the strong reds I made it into, but not as vivid as they were this time last year. Last year had a virgin freshness that this year doesn’t. I’m a bit more of an old soldier at the moment, so to speak. Hood up, riddled with scars and bloodied by my own beautiful choices.
All this makes it seem a bit melodramatic, but I’m just trying to express that I’m not in a shitty place. It’s just that a handful of things were out of whack, digging into me in the wrong ways.
So, I’m fixing it.
I’m in another painting. I’m hoping the next one will be more hopeful, or joyous, or both. But for now, it’s been a beautiful struggle from which I’m glad to have a reprieve.
I wouldn’t have been able to paint these vivid reds and brilliant eyes of this one if not for my fiance, and my parents, and my soul sisters, and my compassionate coworkers.